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virgin mobile canada

Sticker shock on Canadian cell data rates

I had to do a double take after I put myself back into my chair and fastened my seatbelt when I saw the price of data transfer on the Virgin Mobile Canada website: $51 200 per gigabyte! Holy shit Batman! Are you kidding me? (See the “Canada Rates” tab at “Long Distance and Roaming“.) On a low-end high-speed Internet connection for a residential customer, that would translate into a bill of $6.4 million per month if you used your full bandwidth allotment! How is that justifiable when other packages on their site are advertised at a “mere” $15 per gigabyte, less than three ten-thousandths of the price? How is it justifiable, period?!

Virgin Mobile Canada data rate of $51 200 per GB!

Virgin Mobile Canada data rate of $51 200 per GB!

Virgin Mobile Canada data rate of $15 per GB.

Virgin Mobile Canada data rate of $15 per GB.

It just highlights what is common knowledge among any Canadians even vaguely aware of cell phone rates outside of Canada. We have among the highest rates (on voice and data) anywhere in the world — the absolute highest according to some surveys. Even Somalia, a Third World country in the thrall of pirates and warlords that has been without a functioning government for over two decades, has better and more competitive cell service than Canada. Why we put up with this, and why our government continues to allow the cell phone companies to gang together and collectively bend us over and screw us, is beyond my comprehension.

So having braved looking at a cell phone company’s website again, I’m going to retreat back into my Luddite cave as I head down the home stretch of my fifth year without the financial millstone of a cell phone hanging around my neck.

Some more links for your consideration:


Update, 14 March 2012: A glimmer of hope on the horizon: Ottawa opens telecom to foreigners, although the announcement is a bit of a mixed bag. Not that I think that “foreigners” are Canadians’ salvation, but our own countrymen (and -women) are quite happy to screw us. However, with Canada being the most expensive place on the planet to own and operate a cell phone, there is only one way for prices to go … assuming the tendency will be to head towards the middle of the pack, and not into the stratosphere! It’s competition and a smashing of the oligopoly that’s needed, and if that means that it takes Europeans, Asians or even Africans owning cell phone companies 100%, then so be it.

Bizarre Virgin Mobile Terms and Conditions of Service

Occasionally I feel that I really must address my insomnia by reading the mounds of legalese shoved in my face every time I want to do anything in this modern society of ours. This is particularly important where money is involved, of course, which means all of the mindless EULAs (end user licence agreements) that I’m presented with when installing software generally get skipped. Fortunately I have an old computer that I try out new software on first, so if I missed the part in an EULA that says the software manufacturer can install viruses on my computer, it’s not a big deal because the old computer is just for testing, doesn’t contain any sensitive or important data, and can be reformatted at a moment’s notice without any hesitation.

Anyway, back to legal agreements involving money. Back in 2007 I bought a Virgin Mobile Canada cell phone. I stopped using their service a few months later because I cancelled my planned move to the new area code where I got the phone, and I gave the phone to a friend. At the time I noticed some rather bizarre wording in their “Terms and Conditions of Service”. However, as we all know, you either bend over and agree, or go and live in a cave.

Fast forward a couple of years and I bought a cell phone as a present for someone, and I decided to go with Virgin again. Another year later and I’m again looking at the “Terms and Conditions of Service”. The bizarre wording has survived at least three years, unchallenged (I assume) by anyone with the time, interest and money to pursue what surely must be a serious privacy issue. (I have the interest, but neither the time nor the money.)

Here’s the bizarre wording (which I have truncated and annotated), from the “About Content Provided By You” section:

Any Content transmitted through or to the Services by you will be considered non-confidential and non-proprietary. [Fair enough, I suppose. This is a cover-your-arse sentence in case someone manages to intercept your “content”. If I was a government spy, I’m sure my employer would give me a super secret phone that would ensure that my “content” remained confidential.] … Virgin Mobile, its Suppliers and designees will be free to copy, disclose, distribute, incorporate and otherwise use the Content and all data, images, sounds, text, and other things embodied therein for any and all commercial or non-commercial purposes. [Whoa! Seriously?! So those naked pics I sent my girlfriend are fair game, and I can expect to see them published by Virgin in a glossy magazine at some point? And what about those steamy phone conversations when I’m away from home? Broadcast on radio and television?!] You agree to grant to Virgin Mobile a non-exclusive, royalty-free, worldwide, perpetual license, with the right to sublicense, reproduce, distribute, transmit, create derivative works of, or publicly display any Content submitted, transmitted or posted by you through or on the Services. [Hey, if you’re going to make me a reluctant porn star, at least cough up some of the dough you’ll be making off of me!]

Now, I think it’s safe for any reasonable person to assume that no sane company is going to start trawling though billions of their customers’ inane text messages — and, I might add, the “content” sent to the “services” by non-customers who have not consented to these terms — collecting the more salacious ones to make into a coffee table book. However, if Virgin were to go insane and do so, guess what? You (and I) agreed to it!

Welcome to the modern, civilised world.