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Canada Needs an Arrington!

It has been interesting to watch Michael Arrington (aka the “Wizard of Web 2.0″) launch a tsunami of outrage against Comcast in California after his high-speed connection was cut off on Friday night, and Comcast failed to provide him with a sufficient response. As Jeff Jarvis notes, Arrington is one guy you “don’t want to piss off”.

What I found particularly interesting about Arrington’s high-speed temper tantrum is how much Canada needs a Michael Arrington – someone to lead the charge against high-speed ISPs that operate sweet profit machines in a market where consumers increasingly get the short end of the stick.

If you’re a high-speed customer in Canada, your troubles include:

- Steadily higher prices, although the ISPs contend you also get faster download speeds (in theory, I would argue).

- Bandwidth shaping/throttling – something the ISPs argue they need to do to “manage the network” to battle all those evil P2P. This includes Bell Canada throttling its wholesale customers that re-sell Bell’s high-speed service.

- Bandwidth caps (They’ve been around for several years, although didn’t get much publicity until recently.

- An unfortunate lack of competition. In most markets, there are only two players but price is never used as a competitive tool. It didn’t help that the Canadian government let Rogers and Bell acquire Inukshuk, our only national Wi-Max player.

- A federal government with no willingness to explore network neutrality, even though it’s becoming an issue that could impact our ability to compete and innovate

Canada needs something who’s willing to lead the charge, wave the flag and make it clear that I the consumer is “mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore! Maybe, it’s Michael Geist or perhaps the Canadian Association of Internet Providers, which recently filed a complaint with the CRTC asking it to direct Bell Canada to cease and desist from throttling its wholesale Internet service.

We need an Arrington to galvanize our high-speed discontent into a loud and vocal rebellion. The time has come.

For more on the throttling issue, check out Wayne MacPhail’s story on Rabble.ca.

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  • http://www.livedigitally.com Jeremy Toeman

    As a displaced Canadian, I don’t agree. What Canada really needs is a Comcast. While Canadians seem in general very alert/empathetic to each others’ plights, Canadian businesses seem less service-oriented than American ones…

    By the way, I’m saying Comcast figuratively here. We have enough monopolies.

  • http://www.markevanstech.com Mark Evans

    What we need is more competition – at least a way to make sure the competitors we have compete better for the dollars and loyalty of consumers.

  • http://www.intechible.com Shaun Rotman

    Half way through reading this I was already thinking Michael Geist. Glad you mentioned him.

    Seeing as he gets more mainstream media attention than most bloggers and net neutrality activists, I would agree he’s our best choice.

    But I don’t think the solution is a single person like Arrington. It wasn’t just him that set things off. It’s the fact that there are so many people who follow Arrington that Comcast didn’t want to risk pissing them off as well.

    What we need is a closely tied community of followers. I don’t know what the numbers are for Geist, but I’m guessing they’re not as high as Arrington. If all the bloggers get together to form some sort of outlet for their opinions it will be much easier to start a commotion than hoping just one will set things off.

    For Arrington this was Twitter, for Canadians, who knows.

    Mark, consider joining forces with Geist and some of your other friends in the biz and maybe together you’ll make enough noise to get the CRTC off their butts.

    Each of you writing on your own apparently isn’t doing it.

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  • http://www.bitcurrent.com Alistair Croll

    I think we have another killer issue. The Canadian wireless industry is an affront to free markets. Suffering many of the ills of broadband, it lacks regulation and has a few strong players skimming the market because they own the airwaves.

    By simple comparison, my bill (on both Rogers and Fido) is easily $600 a month when I travel to the US — and that’s not even using data. An American can get an all-you-can-eat voice and data plan for a fraction of that.

    Heck, I even disabled data in the US — every Google Map trip cost me $10. I tried to get Bell’s North America data plan and voice plan on the same phone only to be told I couldn’t: “They’re complementary,” said an unhelpful clerk (right before she moved my number into the Bell network without authorization and took me off the air for a week. Thanks for that.)

    In this day of mobile online commerce, I would bet that wireless is a bigger axe to grind, and one that more Canadians can get upset about than broadband. The vast majority of consumers doesn’t understand net neturality, nor care much as long as their Youtube works. Sure, we live in a broadband backwater where great sites are blocked (Pandora and Hulu, I’m looking at you) but that has as much to do with media and copyright issues as networking.

    But wireless bills are something we can all get angry about. Even Canada’s so-called “unlimited” plans restrict which sites we can use. The Canadian telcos got fat and lazy on long-distance (for which we were the most lucrative nation of all.) Now they’re shifting the cost burden of their no-longer-competitive organizations onto the backs of captive wireless subscribers.

    I’d like to see someone get angry and vocal about that, first.

    (and yes, no standout advocate-curmudgeons, though you mention a few great ones. Austin gets fired up well but he’s focused on a different set of problems these days, to his credit! Maybe a coalition of vocal Canadian tech-wonks?)