Rogers Communications

30,000 Canadians petition for iPhone rate relief

June 29, 2008: 6:29 AM ET

It's taken more than a year for the iPhone to make its way across the world's longest undefended border, which may help explain why so many Canadians are upset this weekend.

On Friday, Rogers Communications (RCI) -- Canada's largest mobile carrier and the only one with a contract to sell Apple's (AAPL) iPhone north of that border -- announced the details of its voice and data plans. They struck some would-be customers as unreasonably high and unnecessarily restrictive, especially when compared with those in the U.S. and the U.K., and thousands of angry Canadians have made their feelings known in various homegrown websites, including eh Mac, GeekCulture, and blog.r4nt,.

But the largest and most pungent protest is a petition whose original name was unprintable, but which can now be found at ruinediphone.com. Its stated goal is to gather 10,000 names -- accompanied by a letter to Steve Jobs -- by July 11, the date when the iPhone 3G goes on sale in Canada. By Sunday morning it had already gathered more than 10,000; by Monday it had topped 15,000.

The letter to Jobs begins:

Dear Steve,

My name is James and I would like to thank you for creating the wonderful iPhone device. We really think that you will change the world with it, just as you changed the world with the iPod. We were so happy to learn that on July 11th, we would finally be able to buy the iPhone and legally use it in Canada.

To our great disappointment, Rogers Communications Inc. has announced VERY unfair rates in comparison to AT&T in the United States and to other authorized wireless service providers around the world.... (link)

What's wrong with Rogers' rate plan?

For one thing, it comes with a mandatory 3-year contract. In the U.K., O2 offers an-18 month contract and throws in the iPhone for free. And although both AT&T (T) and Rogers offer calling, data and text messaging for $75 a month, Rogers at that price gives Canadians a third less calling time, half as many text messages, and puts a 750 MB cap on 3G data usage -- with steep fees for users who go over their monthly limit.

It's this last element that has struck Canadian Apple fans as most unreasonable. One of the features that makes the iPhone so popular is how effortless it makes websurfing and multimedia downloads -- activities that can quickly rack up the megabytes. That's why heavy users usually pay extra for unlimited data usage.

Rogers claims that its top data plan -- 2 GB per month for $115 -- is enough to download 16,000 webpages. But users point out that a single Facebook page can account for 1.2 MB, which reduces browsing from 16,000 pages per month to 1,600.

"It's like they're deliberately driving customers away," wrote wolfscribe on CBCnews. "I'll keep my money, ride out the contract and look for a new provider."

Rogers does offer unlimited data through Wi-Fi sites, and it defends its pricing on 3G data as consumer friendly. "Unlimited plans could end up costing customers more for what they don't use," argues a spokeswoman. "Our iPhone plans more than accommodate the vast majority of customers." (link)

Petitioners are asking Steve Jobs to pressure Rogers to offer a better plan -- or cut a deal with another provider who will.

[UPDATE: As of Monday 9PM, ruinediphone.com is no longer responding, a development likely to spawn all sorts of Rogers Communications conspiracy theories. The site had reported collected more than 20,000 signatures before it went down.]

[UPDATE 2: The site is back up (DNR problems, we hear, not corporate censorship) and had gathered more than 30,000 signatures as of Thursday noon. Meanwhile, Ernst & Young has seen fit to name Ted Rogers, CEO of Rogers Communications, its 2008 "Entrepreneur of the Year." The award will be presented at a banquet in October. You can write your own punchline in the comment stream.]

Below the fold: Rogers' iPhone rates.

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