Thursday, May 20, 2010

Status of my move away from legacy phone/cable companies

After the legacy phone companies effectively won at the CRTC with the Network Neutrality policy debate, and the nonsense of the Broadcasters vs. Broadcast undertakings in (Stop TV Tax/ Local TV matters), I decided to stop being a customer of any of these companies.

I haven't been a direct customer of the phone or cable companies for Internet access for nearly a decade now. I had an ISDN line from Bell for a few years in the 1990's, and had an early ADSL from Sympatico until DSL service was available from other providers. I have since been a customer of third party ISPs as I have found the service from native Internet companies to always be superior to old-economy phone or cable companies.

I'm still stuck with the connection from my ISP to my home being alleged to be "owned" by Bell. The CRTC has so far given Bell the ability to treat this wire as their property, even though the wires exist because of a right-of-way exception to property rights (to put the cables above and below public and private property).

I asked about Fiber, but it is still not viable for home users. Someone at Atria Networks gave me a ballpark figure of a $10000 build charge, $500/month for the endpoint, plus whatever Internet bandwidth I used. I have been told that third-party ISPs are increasingly being able to offer Internet over cable. If I can get a cable connection that is hands-off to the intermediary, then I'll likely switch from DSL. It would be ideal if Teksavvy were able to offer connections like this in Ottawa.

At the end of last year I switched my home phone service from Bell to Teksavvy. I consider this to be a stop-gap plan, and in this case it is just Teksavvy reselling the Bell service. I already have a cell phone, and my ideal is to switch my wife to also using a cell phone from POTS service. With some of the new competitors in the cellphone marketplace, cell will be cheaper than POTS anyway. We already use portable phones -- and even with an Ottawa-only cell phone plan it will be more portable than our current phones.

I subscribe to Fido just prior to the 2004 federal election as I had many customers who had election related websites, and they wanted to be able to contact me. I wanted a plan that was cheap, focused on the urban areas I worked in, and wasn't from an incumbent phone or cable company. Unfortunately Fido was bought by Rogers later in 2004. With the new entrants, and my new Nexus One smartphone, I switched to WIND mobile and added a data plan earlier this month. I'm now off of the incumbent providers again, and this time with a fully unlocked (network and OS software) mobile device.

Now the last component to come up with a plan for is Television. I am looking for options.

We pay nearly $140/month currently. My first thought a while back was to take 1/3 of this and upgrade my Internet connection, and the other 2/3'rds to paying directly to content copyright holders. The problem is that as much as I look, I don't see a way to pay directly for the "Television" content that I want.

I could wait until the many months after a season is over and the show is available on DVD. There are many problems with this, beyond the fact that I'd be waiting nearly 2 years after everyone else to watch the first episode. DVD sales do not count towards ratings, and it is quite likely that by the time I have the option to watch the first episodes the show has already been cancelled (IE: Defying Gravity, Bionic Woman 2007, The Sarah Connor Chronicles). It seems that DVDs will remain a way to keep at home shows that I already watched elsewhere, and that I know I'm going to want to watch many times again (IE: I just ordered Doctor Who: The Complete 1st Season - DVD Boxed Set, and already have Firefly and the Dollhouse season 1. Still waiting for the Dollhouse season 2 DVD to finally be out).

There are some shows that are available on the websites of various broadcasters. While this is fine for me when watching sitcoms, I don't think my wife will appreciate the much lower quality video that is available on these sites. I also want better screen resolutions for watching my Science Fiction.

So, what am I left with?

I suspect I'm going to slowly cut my cable down regardless of whether I have a replacement. I am looking into a more advanced PVR that will be able to record the new over-the-air digital stations. I suspect if I get access to good scheduling that I will be able to record and watch later enough television to be satisfied. This too is short term, as I expect with advertising going online that over-the-air television won't have the budgets to show very interesting programming.

I know I can find enough video content legally online to keep me happy. Like many families this is a negotiation with other people, so I can't just drop Cable TV based only on my own viewing habits (or desire to change those habits).

Note: I know all the programming I want is available online if I just ignore Copyright. I'm not interested in this model for my home. While I have no problem not paying any money for programming due to "not for sale" problems created by copyright holders themselves, I'm not going to use infringement to bypass the fact that these copyright holders don't want my money. I will leave fixing television such that Canadians involved in the production can get paid to insiders like Denis McGrath who claims to be interested in such issues. Unfortunately, he seems more interested in the anonymous (AKA: generally useless) comments on Michael Geist's blog than on engaging with people who want to help Canadian creators get paid.
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