Seeing Red

This morning, Apple made the iPad available for pre-order in Canada. At the same time, Rogers announced their data plans for the 3G version of the device. While they made an effort to match AT&T in terms of pricing (many details are still unclear), they added a third option that, for me, reveals the extent of their anti-consumer behaviour.

First, let’s see these plans:

*250MB – $15
5GB – $35
*

These are monthly plans. Compare to the AT&T offering, which offers the same 250MB for $15, and “unlimited” for $30. Here, I can see that Rogers has made an effort to be comparable to what Canadians have seen happen in the US. At this point, I don’t have official word that these plans are being offered on a contract-free, a la carte basis, as they are in the US. In that model, you can change or cancel your plan at any time without penalty; you simply pay the maximum amount that you signed up for in a given month. Unofficially, however, I’ve heard that this is the case with Rogers’ plans as well. (Update: *It’s now confirmed.)*

In the UK and Europe, I’m hearing that there’s a 2-Euro / 2-Pound daily tariff plan available, which is surprisingly accessible. But we all know that Europe and UK are a different world when it comes to wireless data, so it’s not fair to bring them into the conversation.

Let’s look at that third data plan from Rogers:

Add to existing plan – $20

Hmm. “Add to existing plan”. So if you already have, say, an iPhone, you can spend $20 and have the iPad added to your existing plan.

Now, think about this carefully. If you look at those numbers, it should become very clear that Rogers has gone completely off the hook in terms of their data pricing, revealing without doubt that it’s an arbitrary, cash-grabbing machine. There’s a fundamental feeling of unfairness when considering the way cell companies charge for data, and this new multiple-device era we’re living in today has exacerbated it immensely.

Right now, I have one of Rogers’ 6GB data plans, for which I’m paying $30/month. This was a special offer made available at the iPhone’s launch, and I was (and still am) delighted to be paying it. But the reality is that I’m not coming anywhere near that amount of data. Here, for evidence, is my data usage for the past four months:

April 2010: 519MB
March 2010: n/a
Feb 2010: 1.01GB
Jan 2010: 728MB
Dec 2009: 61MB

I’m all over the map here, but I’m clearly nowhere near 6 gigabytes.

And this includes tethering. Rogers graciously allows us to tether our iPhones to our computers, so when I’m oot and aboot, I can sip from the sweet sweet Internets while I’m sipping my tea.

So let’s add it all up.

Fact 1: I’m paying Rogers $30/month for the provisioning of up to 6 gigabytes of data.
Fact 2: I’m allowed to tether my iPhone to another computer to share that data.
Fact 3: Even with two devices using the plan, Rogers is still making a killing off me, as I’m coming nowhere near that limit.
Fact 4: For some reason, the iPad doesn’t count as an allowed device to tether to.

Does all this sound arbitrary to you? Further, to whose benefit is it to enact these arbitrary rules? Is it arbitrary in favour of us, the customer? Or to Rogers, who made the arbitrary rules? Hmm.

Now here’s where it gets “off the hook”. Leaving aside the aforementioned inability to tether, let’s look at the pricing. I’ll just repeat the two plans that matter here:

250MB – $15
Add to existing plan – $20

As consumers, we have a basic need that must be met when deciding to pay for something. It is, simply, the question of whether the price being asked is related to the cost of providing it. To my mind, these prices reflect a total disconnect between cost and price. The 250MB plan suggests that Rogers’ cost for delivering up to 250MB of data per month is $15 minus some profit margin. But what are we to make of the $20 plan? After all, I’m already paying for a 500MB/1GB/2GB/6GB plan. Given the range of data plans, it’s clear that Rogers isn’t accounting for the amount of data that’s passing through its wireless pipes. Instead, it’s obviously  a charge for pushing any single data plan to two SIM cards.

Think about that: $20/month to push a single data plan to two SIM cards. $20 for the equivalent of a train track routing switch, a $240-per-year maintenance headache whose sole purpose is to know a) what device is asking for data, and b) checking with the records to assure that device is registered to a particular customer.

I call bullshit.  This plan is completely disconnected with the cost of their business, it’s a cash grab, and I’m not going for it.

Now if, for whatever reason, you don’t have an Internet phone of any kind, then these iPad data plans may seem like a good deal. Perhaps they are. But for those of us on existing plans, I think the notion that we should pay for individual device-locked plans is outrageous.

I can’t honestly see why more people aren’t making noise about this, because if you swallow this pill, there are many more to come. What happens when Apple comes out with a MacBook 3G? You gonna get a data plan for that too? Huh? Are ya?

So thanks Rogers, but no thanks. I’ve gone for a different option: Spirit Jailbreak and MyWi. Now my iPhone broadcasts a wireless LAN, and my iPad is on whenever I need it to be.

Update

So it turns out that Rogers made a mistake about the $20 data plan — it doesn’t exist. That’s definitely for the best, given the vitriol I spewed above.