Monthly Archives April 2014

Is Verizon Deliberately Neglecting its Copper Network?

LandlineThe war over copper-to-IP is heating up, and accusations are flying that Verizon is deliberately neglecting its traditional infrastructure to force customers into unreliable Internet-based service.

Verizon is denying the claims made last month by The Utility Reform Network (TURN), which filed an emergency motion with the California Public Utilities Commission.

In its request, TURN asked the Commission to “order Verizon to repair the service of copper-based landline telephone customers who have requested repair or wish to retain the copper services they were cut off of.”

A Verizon spokesperson spoke out against the filing, stating the transition to IP-based networks actually improves the quality of service in areas plagued with copper infrastructure issues. All customers are asked for permission before their services are migrated, and if they’re unhappy, they can be transferred back, said Verizon’s Jarryd Gonzales.

However, a former Verizon copper repair center employee told a contradictory tale at a recent public hearing, stating some customers are not being given a choice and are being forced into its Voice Link product. Those who refuse to transition are left without service.

Voice Link has been highly criticized for its unreliability, especially during power outages, which puts 911 service in limbo. It does not support DSL, medical alert or alarm monitoring.

*Source: Ars Technica

Air Canada Launching In-Flight Wi-Fi

Air Canada wi-fiIn less than a month Air Canada passengers will have the chance to surf the Internet while cruising to their destination. The Canadian airline says the service will be offered on all North American flights starting in May.

Like other American carriers, Air Canada plans to use the Gogo Wi-Fi system. In the U.S., the service usually runs $5 an hour, $14 for 24 hours or $39.95 a month for a single airline. Frequent travellers can pay $49.95 a month to use the service on all available airlines.

Though Internet connectivity is permitted, voice calls or other communications through cell phone networks are still prohibited.

Flying with Wi-Fi is becoming the norm. While Air Canada stands to make up to $5.2 million a year by charging for the service, it may not last long – analysts point out other airlines, including JetBlue, are now offering the service for free.

Canaccord Genuity’s David Tyerman notes many hotels used to charge for Wi-Fi, but are now offering it for free since it has become the industry standard.

Chances are many people will be willing to pay for Wi-Fi on a flight to break up a long, boring plane ride. But it will be interesting to see how high the fees stay, and for how long.

*Source: Canada.com

BlackBerry Will Fight for Device Business

johnchenBlackBerry CEO John Chen is warning analysts not to twist his words after a comment attributed to him made waves this week.

Chen found himself in the headlines after an interview – in which he was quoted as saying if the company’s handset business was no longer profitable, it would cease production – went viral. However, he spoke out again Thursday, stating his previous quote had been taken out of context.

Such a move isn’t going to happen in the near future, he wrote on the BlackBerry blog yesterday. In fact, he said the company will continue to fight..

“I want to assure you that I have no intention of selling off or abandoning this business any time soon,” Chen wrote.‎ “I know you still love your BlackBerry devices. I love them too and I know they created the foundation of this company. Our focus today is on finding a way to make this business profitable.”

While some misinterpreted the statement as Chen throwing in the towel, others were quick to point out he’s being smart, and doing exactly what BlackBerry hired him to do – revive the business using any means necessary.

 

Protect Yourself From Heartbleed

heartbleedUnless you’ve been unplugged the last 24 hours, you’ve heard the breaking news about the biggest security flaw to hit the Internet – the Heartbleed bug. The Internet encryption vulnerability impacts all websites using Open SSL encryption, which is about two-third of all websites currently online.

The announcement has caused widespread fear, with people questioning if their passwords, and personal and credit card information has been left vulnerable after years of online purchases and electronic banking.

A slew of heavy hitters, including Google and Facebook, say they’ve implemented a patch to prevent any further issues. But it has crippled others, including the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), which was forced to shut the public section of its website down during busy tax filing season. The CRA doesn’t yet know if any sensitive data has been compromised.

However, some security experts are skeptical of the quick fix, and remain unconvinced it will remediate the issue.

So what can you do to protect yourself? Experts say immediately changing passwords won’t do anything if the website in question hasn’t implemented the patch. According to the Globe and Mail, you should change your password immediately for the following sites, which have already been updated:

– Facebook
– Gmail
– Tumblr
– Yahoo mail
– GoDaddy
– Dropbox
– LastPass
– OKCupid
– Soundcloud

To check if a site is still vulnerable, you can use the online tool at http://filippo.io/Heartbleed/

*Source: Globe & Mail

Canadians Plagued by Credit Card Flight Scams

airplaneJust about everyone has won enough “free cruises” to take an entire year off of work. However, calls that promise free flights from known companies may appear a little less suspicious. Nevertheless, beware of any caller promising cash credit towards free flights in exchange for credit card information because it is most certainly a scam.

The Calgary International Airport reports scammers have been using automated messages pretending to be airport officials in their calls. The airport has no involvement in any such calls, and is warning the public if you receive one, it is most certainly fraudulent.

The scam itself isn’t new – it’s one that WestJet has been struggling with for years. Crooks will call numbers across Canada and tell victims they’ve won a prize for their loyalty. They ask for credit card information, which they say is to cover “administrative fees.” Then the credit card is used for fraudulent purchases.

WestJet is also reminding the public they do not use telemarketers and that the company is not associated with the calls.

“This phone scam, and other similar versions, continue to be a source of great frustration for our guests as well as for us,” WestJet vice president Richard Bartrem was quoted as saying.”We would like to reassure Canadians once again that we are not making these annoying calls, and we apologize for the inconvenience.”

It seems flight-reward credit card scams are increasing in Canada right now and the public should be on alert. Anyone receiving a call of this sort should contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Center at 1-888-495-8501.

*Source: CBC

 

Global Billing Error Digest

Global Billing ErrorsIssues with billing errors on phone bills aren’t restricted to North America. In fact, thousands of customers around the world are hit with bogus charges each year. Today we take a look at two major billing controversies unfolding in Ireland and Australia.

Our first story is a bit of a reversal. Instead of charging too much, Ireland-based Eircom did the opposite – failures in its direct debit system meant around 30,000 people haven’t had their monthly payments for phone, Internet and cable take from their accounts since January. Though some had a portion withdrawn, others had nothing at all. The problem? Their bills indicated they had paid in full.

We know people are often too lax when it comes to keeping track of their bank account activity – just as they are too lax when it comes to keeping an eye on their telecom bills – so chances are some people didn’t even notice the mistake. But now they’re facing bills of up to $700 USD to catch up.

The chairman of the Consumers’ Association of Ireland is none too thrilled with the company’s plan to withdraw the entire amount owed by each customer via direct debit during the upcoming billing cycle.

“The customer arranged for the payment to be made, they gave them the facility to do it, and Eircom botched it up,” chairman Michael Kilcoyne was quoted as saying. “There are many people living hand to mouth now, who won’t be able to afford this. It is totally unacceptable that Eircom would demand this money from them.”

Eircom maintains those who cannot pay in full should contact the company to make arrangements to pay in installments.

Optus Slapped by Watchdog

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has issued a formal warning to Optus for its sluggish resolution to an $8.8 million billing error dating back to April 2009. More than 237,000 customers were charged for a voicemail transcription service to which they never subscribed; Optus blamed the glitch on a software programming error.

ACMA charges that Optus began receiving complaints about the issue in October 2011, possibly even earlier, but failed to act until July 2012. The company then took several months to resolve the issue.

The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network has also issued its own warning to consumers after a joint investigation with CHOICE and the Consumer Action Law Center found one in five people have unexpected charges on their telecom bills, but only half take steps to resolve the errors.

Ontario Introduces Wireless Contract Law

Ontario wireless contractsOntario has introduced increased protections for consumers when it comes to cell phone contracts. The Wireless Services Agreement Act, which came into effect last week, aims to prevent consumers from getting stuck in a manipulative or unfair cell phone contract.

Though some of the new guidelines mimic regulations recently put in place under the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunication Commission’s Wireless Code of Conduct, elected officials hope it will go one step further to ensure wireless customers get clear information and fewer surprises upon entering into a contract.

The act includes a provision that customers who cancel fixed-term contracts after two years cannot be charged more than a $50 penalty, though they will still be responsible for paying off any existing device subsidies. Fines for violating the act range from $50,000 to $250,000.

“Ontario has enshrined the rights of cellphone, smartphone and tablet users in legislation – not a code,” Consumer Services Minister Tracy MacCharles was quoted as saying.

Other guidelines include:

– Contracts must be written in plain language
– Contracts must clearly outline which services come with the basic fee and which would result in extra charges for the consumer
– Wireless services providers must get customer consent before amending, renewing or extending a fixed-term contract

The act – which was originally introduced by MPP David Orazietti – took effect April 1, and applies to all new contracts, and those that were renewed, amended or extended as of that date.

“Ontario consumers deserve easy-to-understand cell phone contracts,” Orazietti said, in a press release. “Boosting consumer confidence and protecting people’s hard earned dollars have huge economic benefits.”

 *Source: Toronto Star

Walmart Files Lawsuit Against Visa

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The world’s biggest retailer is ready to face off against a credit card giant in court over allegations of transaction fee fixing.

Walmart recently filed a big lawsuit against Visa, alleging the company conspired with banks to fix transaction fees. This, says Walmart, violates federal antitrust laws, and is seeking at least $5 billion in damages.

The lawsuit is similar to one filed by U.S merchants against Visa and MasterCard. It wrapped up late last year, with a judge handing down a $7.5 billion settlement in favor of the retailers. Walmart had originally been part of that action, but had withdrawn from the case.

Walmart says the conduct has caused it “enormous damage” and doesn’t think retailers should be forced to accept all payments from Visa-issued brands.

“Visa’s monopoly power has enabled it to dictate price and inhibit competition,” Walmart stated in its complaint.

*Source: Bloomberg

 

Telus CEO Steps Down

entwistleTelus CEO and president Darren Entwistle has stepped down from the position after 14 years, announcing earlier this week he would be replacing retiring board chairman Brian Canfield.

Telus has grown since 2000, when Entwistle took over the company. Under his regime, its revenues have climbed 90 percent to $11.4 billion per year, 82 percent of which consists of revenue from wireless data. Telus is one of Canada’s big three carriers, right beside Bell and Rogers.

“Darren will retain ultimate accountability for the strategy and performance of the company,” said Josh Blair, executive vice-president of human resources and Telus chief corporate officer. “Darren remains committed to Telus in the long term and will be very active as executive chair.”

Chief commercial officer Joe Natale will officially become CEO of Telus on May 8. He will report to Entwistle.

*Source: Vancouver Sun

 

BlackBerry Breaks Up With T-Mobile

blackberry blogA disagreement between BlackBerry and T-Mobile in February has finally reached a head, with the Canadian smartphone maker announcing it will cut ties with the wireless provider.

With its licensing deal set to expire April 25, BlackBerry has announced it will not be renewing the agreement. It seems the decision stems from the targeted promotion T-Mobile offered just weeks ago, offering BlackBerry users a chance to trade in their device for a new iPhone 5s for $0 down.

At the time, incensed BlackBerry users attacked T-Mobile CEO John Legere on Twitter and BlackBerry CEO John Chen shared his disappointment online, stating his company had not been informed of the promotion and was angered by it. (See screen cap above)

Existing BlackBerry users on the T-Mobile network shouldn’t experience any disruptions or changes to their service, and T-Mobile will continue to offer BlackBerry handsets until its current stock is depleted.

“BlackBerry has had a positive relationship with T-Mobile for many years. Regretfully, at this time, our strategies are not complementary and we must act in the best interest of our BlackBerry customers. We hope to work with T-Mobile again in the future when our business strategies are aligned,” said Chen, in a statement.

“We are deeply grateful to our loyal BlackBerry customers and will do everything in our power to provide continued support with your existing carrier or ensure a smooth transition to our other carrier partners.

*Source: Vancouver Sun