Big Telecoms raising your internet price

Your internet bill is going up soon -if your service is with Bell or Rogers.

The two companies announced earlier this month that the price of their services are going up across the board. I got my letter just last week.

As consumers, we do not have much of a choice as far as internet services are concerned. In Canada and particularly in Ontario, the variety of services are not great. Bell and Rogers own most of the network infrastructure. Almost all the other service providers “rent” their wires to provide the service into your home. They can offer some savings but depend on the big companies for servicing and repairs. The experience of calling Acanac or another one of the little internet providers with a technical service request when your internet is down is, as one could imagine, not always pleasant. You can almost imagine some Rogers’ tech guy dragging his feet in order to avoid having to fix the issue of the start-up competitors.

Bell has now started a legal process to stop even this small measure of competition from happening. The CRTC, the government body that regulates the Big Telecoms, ruled earlier that Bell, Rogers and Telus have to provide their networks at wholesale prices to smaller companies. They are legally required to do so. Bell is arguing that this is causing them to stop investing in their network and that that in turn would lead to job losses.

You have not heard much about this on the news yet and maybe you will, because this will hit all of us in the pocket books. But it is hard not to be cynical about the small amount of coverage on the news on this type of issue when Bell and Rogers in particular have so much influence over the media that is available to the public (Bell for example owns CP24, CTV, The Globe and Mail and others). It is even harder to believe that the Big Telecoms are arguing that the subpar network that they are making available to us in Toronto under near monopoly conditions needs to be protected from competition in order for us to see improvements.

City Councillor Mike Layton is moving a motion at the City of Toronto to get the City to take the side of consumers on this. You can see his motion here:

The City of Calgary already did so earlier last month. They had a 30 page report challenging Bell on the grounds that more competition is needed to improve the service.

The Big Telecoms have not invested in the network in our area. Canada has a very unreliable system, by world standards, and high internet speed is not found in all neighbourhood, least of all Downsview. We need competition to keep the big companies honest.

Cutting the cord on expensive cable

If you hate your cable and internet bill, keep reading this article.
Cable and Internet can set you back $100 to $200 every month. Luckily you have some alternatives, particularly for cable. The problem of course is that there are only two major providers. All the smaller cable and internet providers use Rogers and Bell infrastructure so that there is not a lot of competition. It really comes down to a having two private companies with a shared protected monopoly. This explains the lack of service when you call them for anything. It also explains the movement of people that call themselves “cordcutters”.
“Cordcutters” are people that got tired of the high fees and poor customer service and looked for ways around streaming content.
There are options out there. For starters, pick-and-pay cable is finally coming to Canada. The Federal agency that oversees the cable industry gave all cable companies until March of 2016 to provide a new service. Starting in two months all cable companies will have to provide the following new items:
• “basic” bundles for $25
• all channels not included in the basic package are to be offered in small packages or individually
You want the sports channels, but not the other 200 odd channels that come with it? You will have more options now with traditional cable companies. However, this is not the solution for everyone. For many, maybe cable TV does not offer all you need so many people have now switched to internet media streamers.
You can get a lot of content directly to your TV through a media streamer connected to the internet. Through the box you can search for content, order a TV series, download movies, etc. There are dozens of models, but they come in two basic forms: paid boxes and free boxes.
The most popular paid boxes are Roku, Amazon Fire TV and Apple TV. While they provide access to some free programming, they largely depend on consumers ordering content services like Netflix, Amazon, Cineplex, NHL Gamecentre Live, VUDU, etc. Apple TV on the other hand has limited options to free content. The boxes range from about $100.00 and ordering the services you want as opposed to a package with 300 channels you don’t watch can save you some money.
The free programming based boxes also offer access to some of the same paid content, but they also offer alternatives to watch some of the same shows and live events without having to fork over the money. Some of the most common alternative media streamers are Xbox, PS4, Android TV and Chromecast. These range widely in price. They can go from $50 to $500. Depending on what you need and your budget, you may not need to pay for any services after you buy the hardware but you need a good internet connection.
The last method may be the easiest and most economical to set up. It provides you with up to two dozen high definition channel, requires only a one time purchase and installation and requires no monthly payments of any kind, internet or cable. Your trusted old antenna is not your grandparent’s antenna any more. By law, all major TV broadcasters now have to provide HD TV over the airwaves. In Downsview a good antenna can get you up to 26 channels from Canada and the US.
Have you cut the cord yet?
For more information and resources you can go here:

Paris Climate Conference a big deal for Downsview

The terrorist attacks in Paris a couple months back were tragic and a stark in contrast to the Climate Change Conference that occurred in the same City, not long after. Paris is a long way of, but the Conference will have big effects on us all. I am writing this before the start of the Conference and the internet and the media are abuzz with expectations. Where other efforts have failed to get agreements, here success seems possible.

Climate change is real and its consequences are felt worldwide, even in Downsview. We are luckier than other places, but not all of us. If you ever wondered why we get more basement flooding cases now than 20 years ago, then part of the reason is because we get more rain and more “big rain days” now than ever before. The aging infrastructure does not help, but the reason why the issue reoccurs is the higher big rainfall numbers. In other places higher rainfalls and raising sea levels are drowning out people from their homes. In other places instead of higher rainfall there is draught.

What conference means to us in Downsview is hard to know just yet. The goal of the conference is to have a binding agreement on climate for all the countries in the world that will prevent temperatures from raising above 2 C of pre-industrial levels. Basically, they mean to set up rules on green gas pollution that will prevent global warming from getting to the point of no return.

Canada is doing some of that already. Alberta (oil producing Alberta!) has just announced major environmental changes to reduce carbon emissions and is leading the pack. Even Conservative led Saskatchewan announced that they are moving towards 50% renewable energy production by 2030.

To the average person it may mean that over the next year some things will not be the same. Electric cars may be more affordable. Fixing your house to make it energy efficient will be cheaper. More neighbours will have solar panels. More of our food will be produced closer to home. Similar to the introduction of recycling, people may not like it at first, but we will wonder how we did things before once it happens.

I will leave the readers with a little local inspiration. We can all make a difference or at least try. Some Blacksmith Public School students noted two years ago that Tim Horton’s cups are not recyclable (none of them are, they have a waxy covering that makes them garbage, the thing that prevents you from being burned). They then put on a video that our local Councillor played at City Hall in order to push a motion to move towards recycling the cups. The motion won, but the City is still trying to figure this out. Check out the link: