Wind Mobile First to Cut Roaming Rates After Ottawa’s Push for Price Caps

by Istvan Fekete on August 22, 2014

It looks like Ottawa’s push to lower domestic roaming charges in Canada has finally seen results: a wireless startup announced yesterday that it is lowering rates for voice, text, and data.

Although the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission does not regulate the prices in the wireless industry, the government approved a law this spring that put a cap on the domestic roaming rates incumbents can charge their competitors to roam on their network.

The first small player to lower its roaming rates is Wind Mobile, and this is a direct result of Ottawa’s push. The Toronto-based carrier announced the new rates on Thursday, reducing what it charges for voice calls and text. It also cut charges for data roaming to 5 cents per megabyte, down from $1.
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Google Targets Services to Children

by Matt Klassen on August 22, 2014

Google is planning on offering online accounts to children under the age of 13, a report in the Wall Street Journal indicated, moving the search engine giant into the “controversial and operationally complex” (and not to mention lucrative) market of underage users. But is this move in the best interests of our kids, or simply in the best interests of Google?

In this new system parents will be able to set up accounts for children under 13, monitor and control the use of those accounts, and regulate the information collected about their children. The problem, of course, is that those very parents have little idea about how to control and maintain their own online privacy, let alone the privacy of their Internet-savvy kids, meaning there exists significant opportunities for exploitation (accidental or otherwise) of our vulnerable youth.

But that said, its doubtful Google will actively use its suite of services to directly market to children, as not only does Google’s advertising require complex behavioural analysis, the gathering of which would violate numerous ethical codes with children, but that the FTC frowns on such blatant marketing to kids, meaning Google will have to find a more covert way to get young kids hooked on the Google lifestyle.

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Requests for Cell Tower Information Can Disclose Bank and Credit Card Data

by Istvan Fekete on August 21, 2014

The media was loud last month about a case involving a Peel Regional Police warrant application requesting subscriber data from both Telus and Rogers. The two incumbents have decided to challenge the warrant, as the police were asking for cellphone information about 40,000 to 50,000 customers as part of the investigation.

Back then, the incumbents highlighted important issues about privacy, and the police withdrew the order in favour of a more limited request, but the Court ruled that the Charter issues raised by the request should be examined.

Those who followed the case closely may recall an important quote from the judge: “The privacy rights of the tens of thousands of cell phone users is of obvious importance”, so you may wonder why the judge said that.
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Microsoft Boosts Green Credentials by Ending Affiliation with Controversial ALEC Lobby Group

by Matt Klassen on August 21, 2014

Microsoft has ended its longstanding support of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a conservative public-policy lobbying group that has championed the cause of the fossil fuel industry and hampered the development of green, renewable energies across the country. The move comes as Microsoft attempts to boost its green credentials, as clearly the winds of public opinion are starting, ever so slowly, to blow towards favouring environmentally friendly technologies.

“In 2014 Microsoft decided to no longer participate in the American Legislative Exchange Council’s Communications and Technology Task Force, which had been our only previous involvement with ALEC,” the company said. “With this decision, we no longer contribute any dues to ALEC…we are no longer members of ALEC and do not provide the organization with financial support of any kind.”

But one does have to wonder if Microsoft’s decision to abandon its affiliation with ALEC is a show of support for Mother Nature or simply a shrewd public relations move, as it wasn’t that long ago that Microsoft defended its participation in, what Inquirer writer Dave Neal brilliantly describes as, a “the right wing corporate interest group with oil tentacles and a gassy heart.”

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Ottawa to Auction Off 3500 MHz Spectrum for Urban and Rural Areas

by Istvan Fekete on August 20, 2014

Last year Industry Canada said the wireless industry would have 750 MHz worth of spectrum for commercial mobile services by 2017. It took another step yesterday to add more frequencies for carriers by proposing to split spectrum about to become available in the 3500 MHz band, which was designated years ago for fixed wireless services. The government now proposes to break it into two types: rural, for fixed wireless; and urban areas with a population of above 30,000, for mobile services.

The aforementioned spectrum will join frequencies in the 700 MHz and 2500 MHz bands. The latter will be auctioned off only next year.

There is an issue, though: urban carriers may not be so eager to grab the 3500 MHz frequencies, because currently there are no handsets out there to support the latest technology.
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Sprint’s “Aggressive Pricing” Offers More Value but No Savings

by Matt Klassen on August 20, 2014

When Marcelo Claure took over as Sprint’s CEO two weeks ago he immediately promised that the new Sprint would get aggressive on pricing in an effort to attract new customers. On Monday Sprint made good (sort of) on Claure’s promise, rolling out the company’s first Family Share Pack, which effectively doubles the amount of data consumers get at the industry standard price points.

While not willing to offer any actual savings (as in lower costs) to the consumer, Sprint’s new pricing leverages the company’s greatest asset, its high capacity data network, offering a data gluttonous population more bang for their buck when it comes to data allotments. In addition, Sprint has also unveiled additional promotional campaigns that would further increase subscriber data amounts at similar price points to its competitors.

To top it all off, Sprint has done what any company trying to play catch-up in a changing industry would do, unabashedly copy its rivals, as the company has taken a page out of T-Mobile’s UnCarrier playbook and promised to reimburse customers for their early termination fees from other companies when they switch to Sprint.

But the key issue here is that while Sprint is offering enhanced value for consumers, it really hasn’t got aggressive on pricing at all, meaning consumers looking for truly affordable options are still left wanting.

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Court Gives Green Light to Class-Action Lawsuit Against Bell Mobility

by Istvan FeketeAugust 19, 2014

The Ontario Superior Court of Justice gave the green light on Monday to a class action lawsuit targeting Bell Mobility over the expiration of prepaid cell phone minutes, CBC reports. It all started two years ago when Celia Sankar of Elliot Lake, Ontario, filed a lawsuit against Bell Mobility after the balance on her prepaid [...]

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Amazon Introduces Local Register to Mobile Payment Market

by Matt KlassenAugust 19, 2014

It’s difficult to plot the future course of the mobile payment market, as the initial vision of our smartphones replacing our credit cards and cash seems to have fallen by the wayside, replaced by a new mobile payment reality that has ostensibly transformed smartphones into digital cash registers instead of digital wallets. That means that [...]

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Microsoft Aims for the Head to Combat Apple’s Appeal to the Heart

by Jeff WienerAugust 19, 2014

It’s a tug-of-war that has defined many sectors of the technology industry for decades now, the ever-present fight between the heart and the head, emotions vs. rationality. While there’s something to be said for rational arguments, for presenting facts to the consumer and then letting them decide, there’s almost no debate that whipping that same [...]

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Ottawa’s Policy Threatens Shaw’s Wireless Spectrum Sale

by Istvan FeketeAugust 18, 2014

When it bid on wireless spectrum six years ago, Shaw Communications Inc. apparently failed to make all the necessary checks to see if it was worth the nearly $190 million investment. Now, the company faces the threat of a financial blow due to Ottawa’s wireless policy, which could prevent Shaw from monetizing the unused spectrum. [...]

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