When you buy gas for your car, you purchase as much as you need and use it till it runs out. The same is true of electricity, in the sense that you pay for what you use. When I buy data for my iPhone, though, I pay $30.00 for access to 6 gigabytes of data per month. Although I generally use only a third of that, Rogers Canada denies me the use of the remaining 4GB, despite the fact that I've paid them for access to it. When the next month begins, I'm billed again for 6GB. This is not Rogers' only iPhone data plan, but it was, regrettably, the best option for me.
I signed up for the less expensive of Rogers' two iPad data plans: $15 for 250MB. This, incidentally, is 1/24th the amount of data that comes with my iPhone plan for 1/2 the price. I used all 250MB in a day or two.
Rogers has only one other option for iPad data access advertised on their web site: $35 a month for 5GB.
Seeing this iPad data price of five dollars more for 1GB less data than my iPhone plan got me thinking. I realized that not only was their iPad data pricing higher for access to the same data, they also appeared, in my case, to be selling access to that data twice, just because I owned two devices that could access it.
I navigated to their customer support page and wrote a quick email:
"I have a 6GB data plan for my iPhone. I recently purchased a 3G iPad and added your $15 data package for a month. Using the iPad less than my phone I ran that out in a few days. I have not used any 3G data on my iPad since.
I usually use no more than 2GB of data on my phone, despite the fact that I pay for 6GB. I think it's usurious of Rogers to not allow me to access the data that I'm already paying for on a second device - and instead insist that I pay AGAIN for that data.
Think about this. I'm somewhere with my iPad and my iPhone. If I need to access the web I have to go from my iPad to my phone to use the data I pay for. What's the difference?? It's *my account* logging in to use the product I purchased from you. It's like an electric company saying I can plug in a toaster, but if I want to plug in a microwave I have to pay them again for access to the electricity I buy from them.
Please pass this complaint on to the appropriate department."
Rogers' customer service responded. After assuring me they take my concerns very seriously and appreciate the feedback, they informed me that for an additional sum (less than the advertised $35/5GB), my iPhone and iPad could share the 6GB of data on my account. The offer they made me is not advertised anywhere on their web site (and in fact, they state here (2nd page) that "Currently, there are no sharing plans for iPad available to Rogers customers"). The specific details of their offer might be covered under the "any review, dissemination, distribution or copying of this e-mail or any of its content is strictly prohibited and may be unlawful" boilerplate included at the bottom of their email, so I can't include them here.
Since this plan offered me the ability to share data between two devices through my single account, they had confirmed that there is no technical or administrative problem with doing so. Nonetheless, for simply turning on that ability, they wanted me to pay hundreds of dollars per year. I wrote back:
"Thanks for your response,
Could you ask someone closer to the issue to please break down for me what exactly that additional [amount] is purchasing? I can see how there might be an initial set-up charge to acknowledge the existence of a second device using the account, but after that point it's the same 6GB of data and the same account.
Although the [amount] you mention is less than the $35 you charge for iPad access without a smartphone, it seems to me you're still charging your smartphone data customers twice to access, on their iPad, *the same 6 GB of data* they have already purchased from you.
Please pass this on to someone who can address the concerns expressed in this, and my original, email …"
Sometimes I get this picture of myself as a small dog that has bit into someone's pant leg and will not let go. Sometimes that small dog is rabid.
On the one hand ... in our not too distant future, digital data could become as important as gasoline and electricity. The companies that currently control that data are now testing the waters to see what the market can bear. Unfortunately, we are their real-time test-market, and our responses to the policies and pricing they propose today will shape those of the future.
On the other, I'm just curious to see if someone has a justification for this policy - other than the fact that they seem to be getting away with it.
My Rogers story gets a little silly from this point. I'll try to encapsulate the subsequent email runaround in an upcoming post. In the meantime I am still waiting for a response that confirms that someone at Rogers takes my question seriously.