Emblaze is offering its Emoze push email service at no charge, hoping to generate revenues by selling optional services at a future date. The service works with Outlook, Notes and certain Web-based services such as Hotmail, Gmail and Yahoo Mail. A wide variety of cell phones and other PDA-type devices are supported. The client device needs some sort of data connectivity which can include: broadband IP, wireless 3G (WCDMA/UMTS and CDMA2000), Wi-Fi 802.xx, Wi-Max, GPRS (2.5G), EDGE, CDMA 1xRTT or CDMA 1xEVDO.
Xplorenet offers Internet service to Canadian locations through satellite technology. However, its “unlimited” pricing plans do in fact have limits. According to its Xplornet Internet Services Fair Access Policy:
To ensure fair access for all Xplornet subscribers, Xplornet maintains a running average fair access policy. Fair access establishes an equitable balance in Internet access across all broadband services by service plan for all Xplornet customers regardless of their frequency of use or volume of traffic. To ensure this equity, customers may experience some temporary throughput limitations. Xplornet Internet access is not guaranteed. This policy applies to all service plans including “Unlimited” plans where customers’ use of the Service is not limited to a specific number of hours per month. Xplornet indicates that approximately 5% of subscribers are responsible for a disproportionate share – often as much as half – of the total Xplornet service traffic. Unfortunately, many of those subscribers are not using Xplornet for its intended purpose. To ensure that all Xplornet subscribers have fair and equitable access to the benefits of the Service, Xplornet has enacted a Fair Access Policy (FAP) to prevent abusive consumption of bandwidth by a handful of users.
The Fair Access Policy (FAP) is straightforward. Based on an analysis of usage data, Xplornet has established a download data usage threshold well above the maximum typical usage rates. When a customer exhibits patterns of system usage, which exceed that threshold for an extended period of time, the FAP may temporarily limit that subscriber’s throughput to ensure the integrity of the system for all subscribers.
I noticed that 7-Eleven stores are offering their own wireless prepaid cellular handsets and service. Rates are good (CDN$0.20 for local calls, CDN$0.30 US/Canada long distance) for Canadian users. The expiration lasts for 365 days (which beats out Virgin Mobility Canada’s 120 day period). And the phone comes activated. However, there are some down sides: The service area appears to be much more limited than what other carriers offer for their tri-mode handsets (great if you’re staying near Toronto, Ottawa or Windsor, but not the thing to carry if you plan on a trip to Wasaga beach). The coverage map provided in their brochure only shows Ontario, so its not clear whether they provide coverage elsewhere (but I suspect they likely do in other large Canadian urban centers). They don’t tell you what the roaming surcharges will be or what they charge for non-North American long distance. Also, some of the disclaimers in their fine print may give pause – for example – “map may include areas served by unaffiliated carriers, and may depict their licensed area rather than an approximation of the coverage there” – this appears to say that you can’t even rely on the coverage area pictured in the brochure. Also, “coverage area may be subject to additional charges”, “many government entities impose reoccurring taxes and other fees that will be debited from your account as the law provides”. Speak Out also charges subscribers a $1.50 “911 emergency tax and regulatory cost recovery fee” which may change from time to time. Finally, while the service advertises a 365 day expiration period, the small print states that they may cancel your number if your account has no activity for 120 consecutive days. “A service activation fee and new wireless phone number may be required to reactivate service” – so while your $10 in calling credit is protected for 365 days, you may need to go buy a new phone for $65 in order to use it.
Rogers is now offering “portable Internet” service based on pre-WiMax technology in 20 cities across Canada. The 2.5 Gigahertz solution offers 1.5Mbps downstream speeds and 256kbps up, with a 30Gig monthly cap, for $49.95 / month (modem costs $100). “Portable” means the modem still needs to be plugged in, so its not the same as mobile.
Apparently, Rogers Communications and Bell Canada (the cable guys and the phone company) have pooled their licensed wireless broadband spectrum into a new company – Inukshuk Internet – which will build and operate the network. Expectation is that within three years, they will be able to offer service to two-thirds of Canadians (40 cities and approximately 50 rural and remote communities). Although Rogers and Bell will share bandwidth, each will compete for its own subscribers.
Shaw Communications has been hit with a $1.2 million lawsuit filed by U.S.-based VoIP provider ZingoTel which claims that the Canadian cable operator refused to air a ZingoTel television ad because it promoted a competing VoIP-based calling service. The news comes just a couple of weeks after Vonage Canada also filed a complaint with the CRTC about the cable operator’s practices in respect of charging Vonage subscribers a $10 “quality of service enhancement” fee.
Canada’s Telecommunications Policy Review Panel issued its final report. The report makes a number of other recommendations to reduce or eliminate the current level of CRTC economic regulation. The report also recommends a new approach to control anti-competitive conduct in telecommunications markets on the basis of complaints made on an ex post basis, rather than by prescribing detailed ex ante restrictions governing the provision of services. However, with respect to network neutrality, the Panel considered it important to ensure that Canadian consumers are not denied access to the wide range of new and innovative Internet services.
The report notes that there is a growing concern that increasingly deregulated telecommunications service providers could, for strategic competitive reasons, decide to block or limit access to some Internet applications and content. Therefore the Panel recommends that the Telecommunications Act should confirm the right of Canadian consumers to access publicly available Internet applications and content by means of all public telecommunications networks that provide access to the Internet. … The Panel believes telecommunications service providers in most cases have little or no incentive to interfere with customer access. However, the principle of open access to the Internet is sufficiently important that it justifies a new regulatory provision to ensure that it is maintained.
This will be good news to VOIP service providers, and other Internet content providers, who are concerned about ISPs blocking access to their content or services or reducing the priority of their traffic.
According to the Globe and Mail, the new Canadian federal Industry Minister says he is open to scrapping restrictions on foreign ownership in telecommunications.
The telecom review panel, appointed by the Liberal government almost a year ago, will present its report today to Mr. Bernier. It is expected to call for a more market-oriented approach to the sector, a view that is sure to get a sympathetic hearing from the business-oriented minister.
“I won’t close the door because it’s foreign ownership,” Mr. Bernier said.
For telephone companies, which fall under Industry Canada’s jurisdiction, and the cable sector, which is in Heritage Canada’s domain, foreigners can own a maximum of 20 per cent of an operating company and one-third of a holding company. That means an effective cap of 46.7 per cent.
Techdirt has a nice posting about the liability of wireless access point owners for illegal or infringing conduct carried out by other people accessing the Internet through their access point. Seems that some individuals may be purposely leaving their access point open (in other words, leaving encryption turned off) so that they could (1) cast doubt that infringing activity conducted using their Internet connection was conducted by them and (2) assert the benefit of “common carrier” defenses available to ISPs and other telecom companies for infringing content transferred over their network. Could it be that we’ll all end up with free wi-fi everywhere we go because people open up their wi-fi routers in the belief that it will help protect them from lawsuits filed by the recording industry? Of course, sharing or reselling Internet connectivity may be a breach of a user’s terms of service from their upstream ISP. But that may or may not be determinative of the potential defense. In any event, an interesting argument.