Tuesday 7 February 2012

Potential High Cost for Data Hub Usage

I advise all readers and in particular data hub users to look at the comment on my blog entitled New Tbaytel Hub Data Flex Plan – 26 Sep 11 (updated).

An anonymous respondent is reporting a bill of over $1400.00 for a single month data hub usage including the overage charges.

While I have not seen the actual bill, this amount seems to be what one might expect based on the usage pattern described in a previous comment by Anonymous. By reverse calculations, I estimate a total of around 47 GB was used. Readers can use the table in my blog of 30 Jan 12 to calculate the cost of 47 GB by each of the major data hub vendors serving the Algoma District.

I do not buy into the buyer beware approach. A bill of this size gives rise to enough culpability for all concerned:

a. The user should have read and ensured full understanding of the details of the applicable rate plan.

b. The sales staff should have explained the details and ensured the user understood the concept of data caps and the data consumption rate of typical applications.

c. The vendors should have issued warnings as the user approached the data caps and at set intervals when the user exceeded the normal cap limits.

The cost comparison between normal Mobile data hub costs and terrestrial (Cable or DSL) costs are striking. The cost of the same 47 GB data by terrestrial vendors in Algoma District is:

a. Bell – Fibe 16 - $49.00

b. Eastlink – High Speed Ultimate- $55.00

c. Shaw – Hi-speed 10 - $45.00

Note 1: Costs are based on website information and is used for comparison only. Most vendors offer various specials and bundles that vary the actual costs to the user. Users need to contact the vendors for more details. 

Note 2: There are a number of third party vendors such as Ontera, TekSavvy and Vianet which also offer terrestrial based services in the Algoma District.

Finally, if the Governor-in-Council, through Industry Canada ever resolves the Deferral Account issues, the cost of the 47 GB under the Deferral Account tariff would be around $50.00.


  1. Agree on all 3 points - unfortunately this is like the 3-legged table. Cut one, and the table just falls over.

    "b. The sales staff should have explained the details and ensured the user understood the concept of data caps and the data consumption rate of typical applications. "

    In my experience, what the sales staff tell you is that you can view thousands of web pages and send tens of thousands of emails. That's it. Nobody views thousands of web pages, and nobody (except spammers) sends thousands of emails. Nobody mentioned "thousands of web pages, tens of thousands of emails, or maybe a movie or 2". Nobody behind the counter says anything about the massive bill you're going to get if you actually use their Internet service, like, say, a typical user would. Words like "thousands" make great marketing hype. Words like "1 or 2" get customers walking out the door. I recall hearing "oh yeah, that's lots" or "don't worry" or some such warm and fuzzy stuff. I knew I would never run any streaming apps or any serious media thru this service, without taking out a second mortgage. But how many people get stung?

    It remains to be seen if TBayTel washes their hands of this, but hopefully they will take care of this customer and come to some reasonable and mutual terms. And maybe leverage this kind of experience and step up to the plate, be a leader, and just end these idiotic usage caps.

    1. Why should it be up to tbaytel or Rogers or Bell or whomever to police the activities of users?

      When you sign on the dotted line, you are agreeing to pay whatever charges you incur. You can't turn around after the fact and claim ignorance for not reading, understanding and questioning a company's contract and TOS.

      To suggest a company should eat legit charges because of a customers ignorance smacks of self-importance.

    2. It should be up to TBayTel or Rogers or whomever to inform their users, not police them - that's the point. "Inform" may or may not include alerting them when they hit certain thresholds. But it certainly (at the very least) implies that they are honest with their customers about what they should reasonably expect when they sign.

      Contracts are not that cut and dry. The expectation that an end user carries an IT degree and / or and inflatable lawyer with them into the storefront is unreasonable at best. A customer has to be reasonably informed.

      This isn't purely a legal issue anyway - that's too easy to hide behind. To suggest a company should take advantage of customer "ignorance" (the fact that they don't know bits from bytes), using questionable marketing tactics, smacks of a complete lack of ethics and accountability.

      BTW, ironically, these same carriers seem to have had no issue "policing" their users when it comes to throttling and traffic shaping.

    3. Ah, i was the guy with the 1400 bill. I just got off the phone with a very nice cust rep by the name of Linda. Apparently i wasnt the only person with a huge bill. She was very understanding and helpful and reduced my bill to 95.00. my monthly bill on average. All n all it took all of 6mins on the phone to clear it up. there isnt a cap with tbaytel or is there any talk of one like rogers has for 110 a mth. Linda told me no one has discussed it yet at Tbaytel. Its very hard to be a loyal customer when you cant use your service to its full potential because of the insane amount of money they can LEGALLY charge you with.

    4. That is great news.

      I am glad that Tbaytel was able to work with you and come to what appears to be a mutually agreeable solution.

      It has been my experience that most telcos can be reasonable when a problem is discussed in a calm and collected manner. In most cases it is a question of getting to the right person. You obviously got the right person.

      I understand Tbaytel is developing a program that will allow users to track their usage on a real-time basis. I am not sure if this will be a “push’ or a “pull” system. I would prefer a push system but would accept a pull system as a step in the right direction.

      I guess you should consider yourself lucky that you didn’t have to deal with someone with an attitude like that expressed in another comment in this thread.

      Nevertheless, all users need to be aware that the contract is a legally binding agreement and you need to be aware of the terms and conditions before you sign. This user had a good customer service rep and a bit of luck on his side. The next person may not be so fortunate.

    5. @rt

      Stop trying to muddy the issue. It's the customers responsibility to police their own activities not the providers. Placing the responsibility on the providers shoulders smacks of incompetance on the part of the user.

      Perhaps, the providers should hold a mandatory seminar that every customer must attend before they qualify for service. Can you imagine the uproar that would cause.

      People need to start being accountable for their own actions. Enough of the free passes.

      BTW... Tbaytel doesn't throttle or packet shape so there goes your arguement.

  2. sorry anonymous - but the telco's and their resellers don't get a free pass. Once again, it's not about policing activities, its about honesty and ethics at the point of sale. As the mod suggested, buyer beware is simply not acceptable. There's a balance between buyer beware and a "seminar" - I agree that would be a failure, but it's a bit of a strawman argument, don't you think?. Simply taking a few minutes to inform the customer on how quickly streaming video will eat up their monthly data allowance would be more than enough - in many cases many folk simply do not understand the implications without some guidance. There's nothing muddy about the fact that it would be simple and the right thing to do.

    This particular case is a perfect example - the customer apparently left the shop with the wrong impression, based on what he / she was told by the reseller, who was aware of the specific app the user intended to run. TBayTel may have had no legal obligation, but they do have a moral and ethical obligation not to mislead the customer. Kudos to TBayTel in this case for stepping up and making it right.

    As far as throttling is concerned, TBayTel may have never engaged in the practice - my apologies if I implied otherwise in their specific case - but others have and only stopped (or agreed in principle to stop) after enough customers complained (and pressure from the CRTC resulted). For the record, I like TBayTel, based on stories like this one (where there's a happy ending).

    1. So if you lease a vehicle and exceed your KM's or damage the vehicle, the dealer should just give you a free pass?

      What about the gas and hydro companies, should they also cut you a break if you leave the furnace cranked and the lights on?

      Come on, it's time to man up and take responsibility for your own actions.

    2. Vehicles have an odometer. See the OP's 3rd point (re: culpability) above. The concept of driving a mile / km is broadly understood by the general population, and certainly anyone licensed to drive car. Whereas 10GB / month means nothing to the lay person without some advice and guidance (see OP's 2nd point, again above).

      The gas and the hydro comparison is a red herring. It implies reckless behavior on my part. The customer in question here was doing nothing of the sort. He used the service he purchased in a reasonable manner based on how the reseller advised him. He acted in good faith, based on bad advice.

      Yes - users do need to take responsibility for their actions, as do the Internet retailers and providers.

      My gut tells me you work (or have worked) on the customer support side of things. Possibly in an IT related capacity. Just a wild guess. In any case, you probably know that there are some customers out there that will try to screw you or your business over, granted. But this guy here is apparently not one of them. Treating him as though he's a criminal, by default, IMHO is not the solution.

      My last post in this thread - I'll say it again - I'm glad the customer in question found a resolution to this issue, and TBayTel in this case did the right thing. Anyone visiting this thread is welcome to draw their own conclusions...

    3. You are correct, I worked in IT for the provincial government.

      Quickly grew tired of the monotony of babysitting highly educated individuals who lacked the motivation to push their mouse to wake up their computer monitor.

  3. People often do not realize that they are dealing with 2 different issues when they are watching Netflix.
    1) is Netflix which provides your choice of movies @ about $8.00 per month,which is your entertainment supplier.
    2) is your carrier,in this case TBAY and they charge you per Gb,which is the expensive part.
    There is a small solution to this problem of high Gb accumulation,namely:1st sign into your Netflix account,then troll over to "Manage Video Quality" and on the drop page which opens up, select one of the 3 Video Qualities you prefer. Example "GOOD"= up to 0.7 Gb per Hr, "BEST" up to 2.5 Gb per Hr.So if you watch 5 Hrs/day then you can pile up to over 12Gb per day.Furthermore if you do this for 30 days/month then do the Math.!!So put up with a little less quality and the results may be acceptable.
    Compare this with your power bill, you have your actual consumption and then the higher delivery charges.
    Hope this helps.DF

  4. People seem to think it's okay to place blame on the providers, shouldn't Netflix also be culpable in the grand scheme of things?

    I just heard a commercial that said "watch all the movies you want for $8 a month."

    That indicates to me there will be no other charges once you pay the $8.00.

    Netflix should place a disclaimed before a presentation warning the customer that carrier charges may apply. There should also be a screen that shows how much data will be streamed.

    You can't ask one party to hold all the responsibility, when it takes three parties to stream a movie.