News and views on the Canadian telecom industry, and tips and tricks for saving on your cell phone bill.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The "Small 3's" BIG Media Boost

Seriously? What gives? It seems like every time I peruse the media for news on Canadian telecom I find a new article portraying the "Small 3" (Mobilicity, Public, and Wind) in a sickeningly positive light. I mean, I love that there's new competition that's changing the face of Canadian telecom, and I love that they are attempting to compete with low prices and service without contracts. Canadians have been overpaying for cellular service and stuck in aggravating contracts for far too long, so the entrance of these low-cost carriers is more than welcome. But what really tickles my anger pickle is the way in which the media seems to always gloss over all the negatives surrounding these providers. Whatever happened to balanced reporting? These new providers obviously make great headline fodder, and people want to hear about all the ways in which they are superior to the "Big 3". Moreover, all those new Mobilicity, Wind, and Public Mobile customers out there who are likely experiencing strong states of post-purchase cognitive dissonance (I'll explain why shortly) must be clamoring for any positive news about their recently-acquired provider they can find. The potential usurpation of the incumbent telecom providers who we've all come to hate undoubtedly provides great satisfaction to media-consumers everywhere, so its no surprise that news outlets run with this story on a regular basis. In short, news about how "great" (yup, that's "great" in quotation marks) Public, Mobilicity, and Wind are interests the public, sells well, and is therefore pushed by media outlets all across Canada.

But where is all the mention of how AWFUL the service is? If you are writing an article discussing how inexpensive Mobilicity is, I feel as though it's necessary to perhaps shed just a little bit of light on HOW they are able to provide such inexpensive service - which, to be honest is not really any cheaper than a Rogers, Bell, Telus, or Fido plan, as long as you structure it and negotiate it in the correct way. While many factors contribute to Mobilicity's apparent low-cost pricing structure, the predominant reason is second-tier service. Whenever I talk to Mobilicity, Public, or Wind customers, I hear complaints of dropped calls, painfully slow data, disappearing text messages, and poor voice quality. While Mobilicity will soon be expanding their geographic reach (see earlier Grif's Vantage Point post), these customers also express strong frustration at an inability to get service outside of their local calling area.

To put it in perspective, I kind of see these "Small 3" as the "Old Milwaukee Ice" of Canadian Telecom companies. Like the aforementioned beer, these companies are cheap, dirty, and will leave a bad taste in your mouth. Sure, they'll get you to your destination pretty quickly and easily (i.e. making a phone call or getting drunk, depending on what side of this convoluted analogy you're looking at), but they'll leave you with one heck of a hangover (i.e. pissed off at a dropped call or with an actual alcohol-induced hangover, again depending on what side of this convoluted analogy you're looking at). Their customers include high-school/university students who are mostly motivated by getting to said destination as cheaply as possible, and aging hipsters who will do whatever it takes to avoid anything popular or "mainstream" in some vain and misguided attempt to be subversive and original (when in reality, both getting drunk and using a cell-phone are about as mainstream as you can get, regardless of the brand you choose).

But I digress. It's not that I really don't like the "Small 3". I wholeheartedly support what they are doing to change the face of Canadian Telecom, and their heart is in the right place. I just can't support any company who doesn't provide the service quality that I need, but who pushed their business to me with the promise of "the lowest prices available" (not true), while making every attempt to dodge any mention of quality. It just seems like they are trying to pull the wool over Canada's eyes, and I dislike how our media is playing along. If CTV wants to talk about how cheap the "Small 3's" talk-and-text packages are, they should at least mention the quality you'll be relinquishing if you enlist their services.

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