Friday, June 7, 2013

How A Canadian Government Stimulus Plan Works

Three contractors are bidding to fix a broken fence at Government House. One is from Ottawa, another is from Toronto, and the third is from Montreal. All three go with an official to examine the fence. 

The Ottawa contractor takes out a tape measure and does some measuring, then works some figures with a pencil. "Well," he says, "I figure the job will run about $900, $400 for materials, $400 for my crew and $100 profit for me."

The Toronto contractor also does some measuring and figuring, then says, "I can do this job for $700. That's $300 for materials, $300 for my crew and $100 profit for me." 

 The Montreal contractor doesn't measure or figure, but leans over to the government official and whispers, "$2,700."
 The official, incredulous, says, "You didn't even measure like the other guys. How did you come up with such a high figure?" 

 The Montreal contractor whispers back, "$1000 for me, $1000 for you, and we hire the guy from Toronto to fix the fence." 

 "Done!" Replies the government official. 

 And that, my fellow tax payers, is how a Government Stimulus plan works.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

CRTC Hangs Up On Cell Phone Rippoffs By Cell Phone Companies

The CRTC released its much-anticipated consumer wireless code this morning. While much of the code remains unchanged from an earlier draft proposal, the headline-grabbing change is that the Commission has effectively brought three-year contracts to an end. The issue of contract length was the top issue raised by consumers, who argued that Canadian wireless contracts were longer than most other countries and that they represented a significant barrier to effective competition.
While the incumbent wireless carriers argued that consumers like three-year contracts, the CRTC sided with consumers. Effective December 2, 2013, consumers will be allowed to terminate their wireless contracts after two years with no cancellation fees. The ability to cancel with no further costs should result in two years becoming the standard for a long-term wireless contract. It will be interesting to see how quickly the carriers implement this change as smart consumers may decide to delay signing new contracts unless they are protected by the new wireless code if the carriers insist on retaining early cancellation fees in the final year of a three-year contract until the code takes effect.
The wireless code includes several other notable features. The CRTC has established mandatory caps on data roaming and data fees to avoid the bill shock that sometimes seems to hit Canadians who unexpectedly run up huge roaming fees. The caps will be set at $100 for data roaming (both national and international) and at $50 for data overage fees. Fees can only exceed these amounts if the consumer expressly consents to it.
The CRTC has also established a mandatory unlocking requirement for devices. Carriers must offer consumers the ability to unlock unsubsidized devices (i.e.: devices purchased at full price) at any time. For subsidized devices, carriers can implement a 90-day waiting period. Note that there is no cap on the cost for unlocking (which currently varies widely), though carriers are required to disclose the cost at the time the contract is signed. The remainder of the code includes return rights that allow for 15-day trials of new devices, plain language requirements, and early cancellation fees (earlier than two years).
The code is a definite improvement over the earlier draft version. At that time, I argued that the draft disappointed since it did little to address the major concerns involving contract length, roaming fees, and device locking. I thought the Commission could have been bolder with mandatory unlocking of phones at no cost, limits on roaming fees, and two year maximum contracts. The final code moves in this direction with the ability to opt-out of contracts at no cost after two years. That will be the most obvious and dramatic change to the Canadian wireless landscape once the code takes effect late this year.
The code also represents a major policy loss for the incumbent carriers. As recently as 2006, wireless protections were viewed as an impossibility. As consumer frustration mounted, the CWTA established a weak voluntary code in 2009 with no expectation of government enforcement. Yet that did little to stem the tide and once the provinces began establishing their own consumer protection laws for wireless services in 2010, the CWTA called for a single national code and fought to retain three year contracts (the new entrants left the CWTA in part over the issue). The CRTC has obliged with a code that goes beyond the provincial requirements on contract length and undoubtedly beyond what the carriers thought would result when the process started in 2012.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

SOMETHING TO PONDER: George Carlin

SOMETHING TO PONDER: George Carlin

George Carlin's wife died early in 2008 and George followed her, dying in July 2008. It is ironic George Carlin - comedian of the 70's and 80's - could write something so very eloquent and so very appropriate. An observation by George Carlin:

The paradox of our time in history is that we have taller buildings but shorter tempers, wider Freeways, but narrower viewpoints. We spend more, but have less, we buy more, but enjoy less. We have bigger houses and smaller families, more conveniences, but less time. We have more degrees but less sense, more knowledge, but less judgment, more experts, yet more problems, more medicine, but less wellness.

We drink too much, smoke too much, spend too recklessly, laugh too little, drive too fast, get too angry, stay up too late, get up too tired, read too little, watch TV too much, and pray too seldom.

We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values. We talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often.

We've learned how to make a living, but not a life. We've added years to life not life to years. We've been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble crossing the street to meet a new neighbor. We conquered outer space but not inner space. We've done larger things, but not better things.

We've cleaned up the air, but polluted the soul. We've conquered the atom, but not our prejudice. We write more, but learn less. We plan more, but accomplish less. We've learned to rush, but not to wait. We build more computers to hold more information, to produce more copies than ever, but we communicate less and less.

These are the times of fast foods and slow digestion, big men and small character, steep profits and shallow relationships. These are the days of two incomes but more divorce, fancier houses, but broken homes. These are days of quick trips, disposable diapers, throwaway morality, one night stands, overweight bodies, and pills that do everything from cheer, to quiet, to kill. It is a time when there is much in the showroom window and nothing in the stockroom. A time when technology can bring this letter to you, and a time when you can choose either to share this insight, or to just hit delete.

Remember to spend some time with your loved ones, because they are not going to be around forever.

Remember, say a kind word to someone who looks up to you in awe, because that little person soon will grow up and leave your side.

Remember, to give a warm hug to the one next to you, because that is the only treasure you can give with your heart and it doesn't cost a cent.

Remember, to say, 'I love you' to your partner and your loved ones, but most of all mean it. A kiss and an embrace will mend hurt when it comes from deep inside of you.

Remember to hold hands and cherish the moment for someday that person will not be there again.

Give time to love, give time to speak! And give time to share the precious thoughts in your mind.

And always remember, life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by those moments that take our breath away.

George Carlin

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