Our house, and presumably every other house on PEI, got a full-colour brochure from Yak today. They’re a long distance dial-around service in the same mold as 10-10-321 — you know, those insufferable commercials featuring old football players, or cast members from Full House that you see on American TV stations from time to time.

Basically, you dial a prefix — in the case of Yak, it’s 10-10-925 — before you dial a long distance call, and you get much cheaper rates. The charges appear on your regular phone bill. And the rates are the same 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. There are no fees, and nothing to sign up for.

I just tried Yak to call Yankee in New Hampshire. Call setup time was the same as I’m used to, and the voice quality was as usual. So, at least on the surface, it works. I can’t speak to whether they bill as they say they do until I get this month’s phone bill.

But their rates sure look good.

For example, the Aliant rate for calls from Charlottetown to Los Angeles is 57 cents a minute (during the day); the Yak rate is 5 cents a minute. That means a 30 minute call to LA would cost $17.10 with Aliant, and $1.50 with Yak.

Another example: the day rate for calls to London, England is 69 cents a minute; the Yak rate is 9 cents a minute. A 30 minute call to London would be $20.70 with Aliant, and $2.70 with Yak.

Note that in these examples I’m comparing Yak’s 24/7 rate with Aliant’s day rate. Aliant’s rates go down at night, and various savings plans can lower them as well.

The only downside of Yak would appear to be that you have to dial 7 extra digits in front of the regular number. I’d happily do that to save this kind of money. Or I’ll forget, and never do it. Who knows.

The depressing thing about Yak, for me, is that, assuming they’re a viable and profitable company, it’s possible to make money selling long distance at rates that are 7 to 10 times less than our local phone company. What does that say about the rates we’ve been paying Aliant all these years?

Am I missing something here?


Nils Ling's picture
Nils Ling on November 6, 2003 - 18:00 Permalink

Aliant would argue that you’re missing the millions of dollars they’ve invested in the Island over the years and the hundreds of employees they have who keep the phone lines up so YAK can wander in and sell you cheap service. The analogy might be a gas station that is dismayed to see a tanker pull up, dump fuel into their tanks, and start dispensing it at a price the gas station can’t match. And if the newcomer’s pump breaks, people get mad at the gas station for not fixing it fast enough.

It’s a compelling argument, I suppose. But they had it so good for so long with a monopoly that I’m not disposed to give Aliant any further credit for past investment.

Aliant consistently fall short on service and their prices are consistently higher. I’m an Eastlink and Telus customer now — not so much because they won me over … as because Aliant seemed determined to push me away.

Dave Hyndman's picture
Dave Hyndman on November 6, 2003 - 18:24 Permalink

You can enjoy pretty much the same rates without the hassle of dialing the prefix by going with Sprint (and likely Primus and others). I use Sprint and the deal is pretty compelling: By paying a flat $2.95/month I get $0.07/minute, 24/7, across all of North America. I think you can up the flat by a couple of dollars and get $0.05/minute. And the international rates are pretty much the same.

I’m not pitching for Sprint here. I just find it amazing that people still pay “rack rate” for long distance. Also, I’m all for buying local, but the premium to do so must be reasonable.

PS: Just did some fact checking on the Sprint site and they’re now selling unlimited, 24/7 calls in North America for $19.95, flat.

Alan's picture
Alan on November 6, 2003 - 18:40 Permalink

The “wheeling” of utilities such as telephone or electricity  — mandated market use of infrastructure to break a monopoly — is a long standing practice in North America but new to Aliant and MECL. Aliant would be charging a fee to YAK which is consistent with the fees throughout North America. Sprint would pay them the same fees. The gas station analogy is not really apt. The question is really why you pay for local administration of a service that needs no local administration.

Peter Rukavina's picture
Peter Rukavina on November 6, 2003 - 19:23 Permalink

Dave, the only advantage that Yak offers over Sprint is that I only need one bill, with my local phone company. For an invoice-averse person like me, that’s a real selling point.

Sean F's picture
Sean F on November 6, 2003 - 20:51 Permalink

I find it funny how there is so much complaining about Aliant here. Does anyone not know who Maritime Electric is? We pay the 2nd most for electricity in Canada, but pay some of the least amounts for Telephone service in North America.

Just wondering if this is a case of “Penis Envy”?
Did you once want to be a Telephone Company, Peter?

Peter Rukavina's picture
Peter Rukavina on November 6, 2003 - 21:21 Permalink

Here’s the thing about Maritime Electric: they had a public session last year (which I recorded, and is available online) in which they broke down how and why their rates are as they are. I don’t mind paying their rates, because it was made clear to me that the rates, given the environment, are fair. Perhaps if Aliant or the old-line telcos did the same — explained their rate structure, and justified the difference — I would come to feel the same way about them. But they’re a black box.

Alan's picture
Alan on November 6, 2003 - 21:39 Permalink

Fair comment — and especially so even though Aliant is required to provide much more publicly available info through the CTRC hearings than MECL through IRAC.

Jo's picture
Jo on November 12, 2003 - 19:55 Permalink

I may sound crazy here, but maybe Aliant also employs many Atlantic Canadians that would probably end up going to another part of the country or another country if it weren’t for the jobs that Aliant provides.

Ideally, I agree about everyone’s comments on LD rates, but sometimes there are other things to consider.

Theo's picture
Theo on January 11, 2004 - 05:07 Permalink

Could you please tell me how much it costs to call Rwanda(Africa)? I tried 10-10-925 to call and it did work.Is there any alternative number you have for long distances to Africa?