Dear Bell Canada: We Hate You

All of us across Canada have been taking part in a mass experiment for the past 17 days or so.

This experiment was called The 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics.

Why is that an experiment and what does it have to do with Bell Canada?

Dear reader, I will tell you ‘cuz that’s just what kind of blogger I am – always looking out for those who don’t know.

For those of you out there who live in countries that are not named Canada, a little background is needed here.

The official Canadian network of the 2010 Olympic Games was CTV – one of only 3 national Canadian networks – and was the only Canadian source of Olympics broadcast over it’s hydra-esque collection of stations: CTV, TSN (The Sports Network), MuchMusic (the Canadian alternative to MTV), and MTV Canada (the Canadianized MTV).

CTV was formerly owned wholly by Bell Canada (now about 20%), and now you’re up to speed.

(UPDATE: Bell Canada has repurchased the entirety of CTV as of September 10th, 2010)

On the whole, the CTV broadcast of the Olympics was completely and totally shit – I’m not gonna mince words here.

The fact that the Canadian-origin Olympic broadcasts were shit is endemic of Bell Canada’s general attitude towards the Canadian public and none of us should have been really surprised at the epic failure of the endeavor.

The technologies employed for the Olympics broadcasts were seriously lacking when compared to the station most Canadians turned to when comparable programming was on offer: NBC.

Why is that?

The answer – to put it simply – is competition.

In the United States of America, NBC had the sole rights for broadcasting the Olympic games to the entire country – but they had to deal with new shows or counter programming from their two rivals, namely ABC and CBS.

NBC was in a position where they had to use absolute top notch video, audio, and graphical technology to make the Olympics palatable to the average American to ensure good Nielsen ratings performance against shows like CSI and LOST.

I give a tip of my metaphorical hat to Mr. Zucker, the president of NBC, for making these strong decisions and reaping the benefits.

However, the corporate masters at CTV didn’t really see the need to go all out on the technical standards because they had the Canadian viewers by the balls – so to speak.


Two things.

Patriotism and lack of choices.

If a Canadian wanted to watch the games, they (at least in the heads of CTV masters) would have no other option than to watch the CTV family coverage.

And what Canadian DIDN’T want to watch the Olympics hosted in Vancouver, British Columbia – which happens to be in CANADA?

What Canadian citizen didn’t want to watch our Canadian Olympians win more gold medals than any other country in the history of the Games?

There was simply no choice for a lot of Canadians out there across our great land (2nd largest country in the world, by the way) who only got two or three channels on their televisions due to lack of cable or satellite service.

You see, CTV’s corporate masters give it lots of money to spend on licensing of the lion’s share of top rated American shows – meaning that even if you wanted to watch American Idol or other supershows instead of the Olympics, and you didn’t have cable, you were stuck watching the Olympics because your feeble rabbit ear & coat hanger setup can’t pull in an American network.

These are the facts of the previously mentioned experiment.

I’m not really aware of the total ratings breakdown of the CTV broadcasts, but from what I gather, it was a resounding success for the big wigs at Bell Canada’s broadcast division.

Which only serves to reinforce the way that Bell Canada operates throughout our vast country.

You see, Bell Canada used to be a complete and total monopoly of the Canadian telephone system – that is up until the past fifteen years or so where the CRTC (the Canadian telecommunications authority) opened up the phone market to other companies.

Bell had to deal with outside companies all of a sudden competing with them for the Canadian telecom dollar.

American companies came in and tried to run services for a while – specifically Sprint and AT&T (both of which eventually folded their Canuck operations into the Canadian telecom company Rogers).

With the fear of losing massive monopoly sized profits, Bell Canada decided to buy CTV and it’s associated networks to shore up it’s bottom line through the often mystical art of television tradecraft.

For the average Canadian, nothing really changed on television – save for the inclusion of Bell’s corporate logo at the bottom of CTV’s original local programming credits.

And in the years since the CTV takeover, nothing has really changed either – aside from some graphical makeup applied to the CTV brand.


Bell Canada loathes Canadians – or, at the very least, holds Canadians in total and utter contempt.

For all the water that has passed under the bridge since the monopoly breakup, Bell Canada still operates as a monopoly.

An alarmingly large amount of Canada’s telecom assets are still owned and operated by Bell Canada – including (and the most troubling of all) the entire Canadian internet backbone system.

Bell Canada owns the Canadian internet – despite not having a monopoly on how people subscribe to internet services.

Independent internet service providers have to buy their backbone access through Bell’s infrastructure wholesale.

A Canadian citizen might get their internet through a local company, but that internet is ultimately controlled by Bell.

To borrow something from the Matrix movies, Bell Canada guards all the doors and they hold all the keys – at least as far as the internet is concerned.

That local ISP may not have restrictive content filters that would slow down internet applications like BitTorrent or other P2P programs – but your data traffic cultivated by those apps will still suffer speed delays because Bell Canada does filter.

So in the end, no matter who you’re signed up with, Bell Canada still controls what you do on the internet.

Also, your internet is going to suck when compared to other developed nations.

According to a recent study by eggheads at Harvard University, Canada is 18th on a list of internet service quality.

Why eighteenth?

Because Bell still operates as if it’s a monopoly – and it is the one true  internet God in the realm of Canada’s cyberspaces.

In countries like Great Britain, Germany, Japan, Sweden, or the United States (among many other countries ahead of Canada on the afore-mentioned list), internet services improve over time due to market forces in a wide open internet marketplace.

Let’s use the United States as a working example, shall we?

In the U.S. there is a plethora of companies offering internet access via their own, wholly owned data networks that are in direct competition which each other for American customer dollars.

In hopes of attracting new customers, American networks are constantly upgrading themselves to offer bigger and better products.

Case in point, Verizon has wired large portions of America with a fiber optic transmission network so they can offer blazing data speeds when compared to their competition (AT&T, Sprint, etc.) who are still relying on century-old metal wire network technology.

Competition is the heart of progress in all systems on the planet – both technological and biological.

For something to become better, it has to have incentive to do so – and as it is, Bell Canada has ZERO incentive to improve itself.

I’m sure that somewhere in Bell Canada’s executive building(s), there’s a large brass plaque that reads in bold letters WHAT ARE YOU GONNA DO ABOUT IT?

Until the CRTC grows some balls and forces Bell to divest itself of the Canadian internet backbone, Bell Canada will not invest one measly dime in network upgrades than it has to – and believe me, it doesn’t spend one penny that it isn’t forced to.


Except for internet service via cellphone.

The cellphone service sector is wide open in Canada with many competitors vying for 34 million Canadian’s hard earned cash.

Rogers, Telus, Koodo, Virgin, Wind Mobile – all nipping at Bell’s subscriber base, which forced the company to innovate and try to offer a technological edge to it’s customers that wouldn’t be available to other services.

If there weren’t other cellphone service providers in the Canadian market, Canadians would not have access to 3G or the oncoming 4G.

Bell users now have the opportunity to use the vaunted iPhone (gag me with a spoon) because Bell was forced to upgrade it’s network to compete with Rogers who was already offering iPhones.

That’s the process of competitive evolution in action.

The dinosaurs went through this hundreds of millions of years ago in our planet’s distant past, but the dinosaur that is Bell Canada simply refuses to evolve because there isn’t another corporate beastie big enough to take a bite out of it’s gnarled hide.

For this, we Canadians are in the technological third-world – which really, really sucks.

As much as we love to brag to our quarrelsome American neighbors about how we have superior, free healthcare and how we mopped the floor with them in the 2010 Olympic gold medal count, we must continuously hide our shame in regards to how friggin’ slow our internet speeds are.

I sit here in envy of whichever American cities get selected for Google’s internet service experiments that promises speeds of 1GB per second: yes, one gigabyte per second compared to my 300 kilobytes per second as I write this blog.

No, 300kbps isn’t a national average in Canada.

The average data speed in high-speed enabled communities throughout Canada is 10 megabytes per second via DSL service, 12Mbps via cable internet service – and I’ve enjoyed connection speeds of up to 5Mbps via DSL in the past, but those were anomalous and based on living in the right areas where Bell spent some extra money on their wiring .

Yes… I could subscribe to my cable company’s (Cogeco) internet service and get that 12Mbps, but there’s a gigantic catch to that blissful speed: a solid 60 gigabyte data cap – which is fairly standard amongst North American cable companies.

60GB isn’t enough by far for my demanding usage as I regularly move 200GB or so a month via gaming, uploading to social media sites like YouTube and Flickr, and downloading music/TV shows/movies.

So I’m stuck on this crappy Bell-supplied architecture.

And we, as Canadians, were stuck with the crappy, Bell-managed CTV Olympics coverage when we couldn’t turn to NBC for the same event – which was sporadic at best since NBC’s coverage was very focused on American Olympians and would skip events where the U.S. wasn’t competing, and completely blanked the Canadian cultural portion of the Closing Ceremonies.


Seriously, Bell Canada… what the hell?

The next time I stop to use a pay-phone, I hope you choke to death on the two quarters.





Oh… and that experiment and it’s purpose?

To figure out how much shit we as Canadians are willing to put up with.

And by the looks of it, Bell Canada will continue to use the Canadian market as it’s own personal outhouse.


The Battle For Canadian Television

Have you watched Canadian television broadcasts in the past month or so?

If you have, then chances are you’ve seen the advertisements from the dueling TV camps.

There’s this one – for example – from the group representing CTV, CanWest Global, and the CBC (to a lesser extent):

Or this one, sponsored by the cable television providers in Canada (not the most popular ad at the moment, but representative):

The problem with this battle for your TV dollar is that both side are right… which is presenting a massive headache for the CRTC (the federal agency responsible for policing Canada’s airwaves).

What to do?

Canada’s cable and satellite television providers both pay cross-border carriage fees for American broadcast channels which allow you to watch network content from stations operated  by ABC, CBS, NBC, and FOX affiliates.

Cable and satellite companies also obviously pay money to carry programming from American and Canadian premium content providers such as HBO, Super Channel, The Movie Network/Movie Central.

They also pay fees to carry mid-level content from well-known providers like Discovery Channel, Bravo, National Geographic Channel, Showcase, and others – which are all operated by either CTVGlobemedia (owned by Bell Canada) or the former Alliance television division that is now owned by CanWest Global.

These fees paid by the cable and satellite companies goes toward content broadcast by the individual providers and is completely understandable since you can’t create programming for free.

At a glance, it wouldn’t seem so bad that Canadian broadcast channels want some extra money – especially considering the cable companies essentially are charging Canadians money for something that is free by its very nature.

However, this argument is flawed.

Do you buy bottled water?

You do?


Water is free! Hell, it’s one of the most abundant substances on the face of the planet!

What’s that? You can’t find any clean water where you are?

Ah… now that’s the rub, ain’t it?

The same principle applies to broadcast-via-airwaves television signals: some people can’t tune into a pure TV signal from all the broadcasters – whether it be due to geographical location or too much electromagnetic clutter in their area.

Rabbit ears only can do so much in Canada’s analogue television landscape – which is precisely why people pay for television service from companies like Rogers or Shaw Direct (formerly Starchoice)

However, there is a mitigating factor in this battle and its name is Advertising.

Canada’s big three traditional broadcasters – namely CTV, Global, and CBC – support their on-air programming through selling advertising time to large corporations like Coca-Cola, General Motors, Telus, or the Bank Of Nova Scotia.

In turn, these companies pay X-number of dollars per minute of air time – sometimes in the range of millions of dollars per minute during the most watched programs – thus ensuring that their products are seen by the maximum number of eyeballs that their money can achieve.

The money broadcasters take in via selling advertising is then turned around and spent on on-air programming that you and I watch – whether it be the local news, or the latest episode of C.S.I.

The problem for the broadcasters in this day and age – meaning the current economic recession – is that the companies that need to advertise have less money and therefore are less willing to part with those dollars, and that drives down the amount of money Canadian broadcasters are taking in.

This leaves them in a bit of a bind: spend money on expensive American programs which guarantees people watching their station and it’s paid advertising, or spend money on homegrown content like local news.

Canadian broadcasters are also left with smaller operating budgets necessary for operating their networks across the country.

Some of you out there might have already noticed smaller stations going off the air coast to coast – stations that just weren’t bringing in enough revenue to their owners via advertising market share through no real fault of their own other than being in a city with 800,000 citizens versus one with 3 million.

The biggest bug in the ointment – and what this whole debate centers on – is the fact that the Canadian broadcasters essentially want to tax the viewers for their own failing business practices, which is completely unacceptable!

Yet… the cable companies are making money on things they have paid zero dollars to create.

So, as I said at the top, both parties are right – and both parties are wrong.

What is the answer to this problem?

I personally think that it’s a bit of COLUMN A and a bit of COLUMN B.

Canadian broadcasters should invest in Canadian-made content that people actually want to watch – shows that don’t completely suck a plate of dog bollocks – which will inherently be cheaper than foreign-originating programs and be much better for their operating capital.

To a degree, CTV and CBC have occasionally done this, but their successful programs are very far in between.

Seriously… what was the last Canadian drama or comedy program that you watched as much as you do an American alternative?

Also, the cable and satellite companies need to kick in a few bucks WITHOUT passing on the costs to their subscribers because that’s very much dishonest.

My cable bill from Cogeco is already $90 for a mid-level digital package that has all the basic tier programming, channels like Discovery, 10 a-la-carte stations, and a time-shifting package that has channels from the east and west coast – and does not include anything like a digital video recorder or any of the other fancy ad-ons like VoIP phone service or internet.

The suggested carriage fee of $10 per subscriber would bring my bill to $100!

Is television worth $100 to you?

Come on now.

Be honest.

Things That I Don’t Understand…

Today’s sermon from the pulpit is about understanding.

In this case, the lack thereof.

There are  many things in this world that I think I have a real good grasp of, and there are many other things that I know of in passing.

But sometimes I’m confronted with things that my brain (such as it is) cannot comprehend – in fact, if someone tried to explain them to me, I’m pretty sure that I’d mistake them for speaking Swahili with a touch of Polish.

I fully admit that this is through my own ignorance – which is probably incurable at this stage in my life.

For those who want to look down their noses at me for the following, please harken back to a simpler time in the golden age of cinema to the immortal words of Rhett Butler in Gone With The Wind: “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”

Shall we get on with it?


People who wear their watches on the inside of their wrists.

What is that all about?

Isn’t that a sure-fire way to guarantee your watch get’s scuffed up as it’s constantly rubbing against your clothes or things you’re carrying under your arm?

Also, it defeats the purpose of wearing a nice watch since nobody can see it.

Are you expecting people to compliment you on your outstanding choice in watch bands? “Hey, Frank! I admire your choice in stainless steel wrist bands. You should definitely see me after closing about a raise.”

Does this stem somehow from your being to lazy to turn your arm 45 degrees so you can tell the time?

I have no idea why this bothers me so much, but it does.

It’s just damn odd.


Why do parents insist on bringing their screaming children to a store with them?

Are they so blissfully ignorant of their child’s wants/needs/tantrums that they don’t actually register the cacophony escaping little Jimmy Junior’s yap?

Do they simply not give a rat’s ass? Either about their child or the shoppers 20 aisles over that have to listen to the screaming?

Is it simply a symptom of parents being afraid of disciplining their children lest the Children’s Aid Society come and take their child away from them? (If this is the case, I find it on the whole unacceptable that a public bureaucracy has become such a boogeyman to society on the whole.)

If I had carried on like some of these kids do while my parents were in a store/restaurant/other public place, I would have for certain gotten a thump on the head – what us older people commonly refer to as a “brain duster” – for my effort.

Now, before you say it, I’m well aware that it’s hard to discipline a toddler or someone younger – and I’m not suggesting you apply the above method at all.

However… I am saying you should have the common courtesy of taking your child out of the store until she or he calms down.

Why is it that we have learned to tolerate ignorant people? It wasn’t so long ago that people would cluck their tongues and shake their head in an obvious manner as to let the parent know that they were being a major nuisance – or a store employee would politely ask you to step outside with your child.

I think store owners are just too afraid of being sued in this day and age for even suggesting something like that.

Which means the rest of us have to suffer as a result – at least until decency becomes trendy again.

Trust me… I’m not holding my breath.


The machinations of the ice cream industry puzzle me to no end.

Can someone please tell me the difference between ice cream and frozen dessert? Especially since they’re  both packaged and marketed in the exact same way?

Ice cream comes in a 2 liter tub.

Frozen dessert comes in a 2 liter tub.

Both come in a cavalcade of assorted flavors.

Both are made from milk.

Both taste the same to me.

So what the hell is the difference?

Also… why has the price of store-purchased ice cream gone up by a margin of 100% in the past 3 years or so?

Are cows more expensive lately? Has the cost of feeding them skyrocketed?

Has the ice cream market chilled out to the point where they have to charge twice as much to make up for the fact that they’re making half the sales that they used to? (Yes… I’m discounting the circular logic that people are buying less ice cream since it’s more expensive.)

How has the price of ice cream at Dairy Queen or McDonald’s not followed suit? Ice cream at these stores has generally stayed the same with an allowance for inflation.

Why does it cost me $7 dollars to buy a tub of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream when it used to cost $3.50 only 3 short years ago?


What the hell?


Non-Alcoholic Beer.

What’s the purpose?

Does beer taste so great that you’re willing to forgo the actual reason for drinking beer in the first place?

Is this a product to make people who can’t handle alcohol look cool to their peers by supporting a popular beer brand?

If you’re a recovering alcoholic and purchasing this fake beer, doesn’t that make you masochistic?


People who bring large baby carriages onto public buses.

If two people do this, it remove six seats from the seating pool since they will flip up the two 3-person benches at the very front of the bus in order to park their carriages.

A) That seating is for the elderly, pregnant, and otherwise infirm populace.

B) It eliminates seating on already packed bus routes.

C) It creates difficult bottle-necking when it comes to getting on and off the bus.

When this situation occurs on a heavily utilized route, the bus ends up looking like a train in India.

When you think of it in civic terms, this is clearly a public safety issue, so why aren’t there firm policies in place to exclude this situation from happening?


Finally, given the time of year it is, I ask this?

Why do TV networks pull new shows after like 3 episodes?

In this day and age, television shows are thoroughly tested with potential audiences for weeks (sometimes months) before being put on the airwaves for the mainstream public to consume.

This normally happens when they stupidly put their new show – which they’ve touted as the next best thing – against a ratings powerhouse like American Idol or Dancing With The Stars which have their own firmly entrenched fanbases which aren’t likely to switch to something unknown.

I understand the mechanics: poorly performing shows don’t pull in eyeballs to the advertiser’s commercials – which are what pay for network programming.

Instead of shifting a program around on the schedule to compete against something really weak – say, I don’t know, America’s Funniest Home Videos or some tripe like that – they just pull it off the air without trying  to foster audience growth which could lead to a bigger audience share for the network.

This happens to a lot of top-notch programming and is the major force behind the trend that results in pure crap Monday to Friday.

The best example I can think of in recent history was NBC’s short-lived Journeyman which built up a decent fanbase who were on the internet being quite vocal about their adoration of the program and the philosophical debates it inspired.

Though, I must admit, NBC did give the show a fair shake and allowed it to end somewhat on it’s own terms  with 13 epsiodes – which completely bucks the trend.

3 or 4 episodes tops! That’s all you get!

Unless your show is on Fox.

If it’s Fox, you’ll notice the inverse of this problem.

Successful shows are moved to days where nobody watches TV i.e. Friday night, and the shows that appeal to the lowest possible denominator move into the vacuum that’s left behind.

In case anyone missed it, Fringe has started that march to the TV Death Slot.

The show was on Wednesday with a solid American Idol lead-in last season, and now will be found on Thursday opposite CBS powerhouse C.S.I. and the like.

Watch it move to Friday at the mid-season point.

Then again, it IS Fox. It’s hatred for the television format is universal.