Saturday, May 17, 2008

The Rogers Evil Empire

Today, much to my dismay, I traded in my lovely Fido account for a Rogers account. I loved my Fido account. I had per-second billing, no contract, and a freaking awesome voice plan. So why would I switch over to the Evil Empire (aka Rogers Wireless), you ask? Simple: my Crackberry made me do it. Yes, I caved and got one.

For years I swore that I would never get a Crackberry. I didn't want to end up looking like one of those corporate types who are totally tethered to their BlackBerrys. I'm sure you've seen the type - the Suits thumb-typing while in the elevator, while walking down the street, or even driving (!) who appear to spend every free minute that they have sending out those oh-so-important e-mails. Bleh. Makes me sick. Yet, here I am.

Before you condemn me as a hypocrite, hear me out. I got my Crackberry for personal reasons. I had this crazy idea of wanting to stay connected to the office while on mat-leave (I don't hate my job, so the idea does not make me queasy). I'd read that it was good to say in touch with people from the office to a certain degree while on mat-leave to make the transition back to full-time work a bit easier. I always feel so disoriented when I take 2 weeks of vacation, so imagine not working for 6 to 12 months and then trying to get back into the swing of things! Unfortunately, I'm too much of a peon at work to be allowed to have access to the BlackBerry Enterprise Server (boo!), so that idea kind of got squashed. Still, I did like the idea of being able to e-mail and browse Web pages from a handheld device. Sure beats lugging a laptop around the house with a baby in tow.

After several weeks of pondering, I finally took the plunge. Actually, so did the hubby. His line of work has him on multiple projects at once, so the Crackberry provides him with a certain amount of convenience. Or maybe it was hardware envy. ;-) We spent a significant amount of time doing research on data plans. Data plans in Canada are terrible! There are only two players in Canada for GSM (Rogers and Fido), and Rogers owns Fido. CDMA was out of the question. I left Telus because I think they're blow-holes, and Bell isn't much better. Regardless of who your carrier is in Canada though, good luck trying to find an unlimited BES (BlackBerry Enterprise Server) and BIS (BlackBerry Internet Service) plan. In the US, however, you can get an unlimited BlackBerry data plan for peanuts. Just check the T-Mobile site and see for yourself. Arrgh!

Anyway, after all of our research, we'd settled on getting the BlackBerry Curve 8320. This little piece of technology is not offered in Canada, because it has built-in WiFi, and the likes of Rogers, Telus, and Bell want you to pay for your data usage! Fido is another story (more on that below). It turns out that the Curve 8320 was made exclusively for T-Mobile in the US, and is therefore only available from there. Fortunately for us, some stores here sell an unlocked version of the Curve 8320. We actually bought ours from a Fido re-seller. It cost us a small fortune, but well worth it just for the ability to get free data off of WiFi networks at home and at our parents' places.

Our initial thought when we'd started looking at plans was to keep separate mobile devices - mobile handsets under Fido because we have (had) super-awesome plans and handsets, and BlackBerrys through Rogers for data. But alas, our plans changed. The guy from Fido convinced us that we could get BES and BIS through them, and since their plans were the exact same as the Rogers plans, we figured, what the heck. Small detail - Fido offers BackBerry Connect service, which translates to:

  1. Fido doesn't support BlackBerry devices per se (they support some crappy-ass Nokia smartphone that has access to BIS. This means that if you have issues with your BlackBerry using the BlackBerry Connect service, you're SOL.

  2. Fido will be grandfathering their BlackBerry Connect service in the next month or so. This means that you can keep your BlackBerry Connect service if you're an existing customer, but you're stuck with the plan you have - no upgrading or downgrading. Also, after the cut-off date, no new BlackBerry Connect customers will be allowed.

After 2 weeks on our Fido BlackBerry Connect plans, we finally caved and went to Rogers when it became apparent that Fido did NOT support BES (in spite of the fact that the Fido sales guy said they did). I'm a bit miffed that we had to go this route because, as I said, I love(d) my Fido voice plan. I have proudly had a mobile phone plan sans contract WITH per-second billing since my days as a ClearNET customer (c. 1999!), and was happy that I could get a comparable plan through Fido.

Rogers, unfortunately does NOT offer per-second billing, evenings run 9pm to 7am compared to Fido's 7pm to 8am (unless you pay an extra $7/month for evenings running from 6pm to 7am), and forces you into a THREE-YEAR contract if you want a half-decent plan. Impressed I am not. But it was a necessary evil because of our data plans. Case in point, when we went to switch our BlackBerrys over to the Rogers network, we needed to have our BlackBerry PINs released by Fido. The stupid Fido call center guy didn't even know how to do it, since according to them, "We don't support BlackBerrys." Argh! The Fido CSR ended up having to call RIM to figure out how to get our PINs unlocked. I guess that further added fuel to our must-switch-to-Rogers-for-proper-BlackBerry-support fire.

I have to say though, that in spite of our annoyance with having to switch to Rogers, at least our sales guy turned out to be accommodating and patient. We presented him with an Excel print-out of everything we had with Fido, demanding similar features. We ended up with a pretty comparable set of features (minus per-second billing, plus 3-year contract). On top of that, we managed to get him to waive the charge for the SIM card along with the activation fee, seeing as we were being tied down to a stupid contract and we already had our own (superior, WiFi-enabled) BlackBerrys and therefore wouldn't be buying one discounted through them. So kudos to Matthew, the sales guy at the Rogers store at Yorkdale. You rock!

Rogers customer service, on the other hand, blows. For some reason, I couldn't get my MY5 phone #s set up online, and I had to call their stupid call center. The CSR added my #s in manually, but when I checked online, it still looked as if I hadn't added the numbers. And it certainly looked different from the hubby's setup after he'd added his #s. The stupid CSR tried to convince me that I shouldn't worry and that my phone #s were set up properly. Did he think I was born yesterday? I develop Web applications for a living, and I know that crap like that shouldn't be happening. There is a certain consistency that I expect between my account and the hubby's account for the SAME SERVICE. I finally resolved the problem by having another CSR remove the MY5 add-on from my account, and add it back on immediately. Once she did that, I was able to add my #s online. Oh, and I had to use IE to add my 5 phone #s, because they don't really support Firefox. What major corporation developing customer-facing Web applications does NOT support Firefox? That is just blasphemous.

To sum up: Rogers sucks, Fido rules, and I hope another GSM carrier pops up in Canada with better data and voice plans than the crap that's offered now. Not that I could take advantage of that until 3 years' time...


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