How Telus Fucks ADSL Customers

Written on September 15th, 2002, [email protected]

Before I begin, I should explain just what ADSL is (and don't worry, I won't get too technical).

ADSL stands for "Asynchronous Digital Subscriber Line". Essentially, it's a way to provide high-speed internet service over existing copper telephone lines. If you're getting residential high-speed internet from Telus or any other telephone company, chances are, this is what you've got.

Until ADSL came along, the only way to connect to the internet using a phone line was to use something called a "modem", or "modulator-demodulator". This device turned the stream of data flowing between you and the internet into SOUND. Telephone service, however, has a very limited dynamic range, about 3.5 KHz, so there's only so much a modem can do to cram as much data as possible over regular telephone service.

ADSL changed all that. In most (but not all) implementations of ADSL, the data transmission is "above" the regular telephone frequencies, starting at about 4 KHz and going up from there. As a result, your basic pair of copper wires can handle not only ADSL, but your regular phone service as well - the two do not interfere with each other. It's like your cable TV: the cable company is shooting many, many channels down the cable, but you "tune in" to only one at a time. If you have two TV's connected to your cable, one can "tune in" to one channel while another "tunes in" to another, and the two don't interfere with each other. On your copper wire pair, think of your telephone as tuning into one "channel" while ADSL tunes in to another (much larger) "channel". An ADSL internet connection is "always on", you don't have to "dial in" to the internet, and you can use your phone (or fax) at the same time on the same line.

What is important to understand (and key to my argument) is this: while ADSL can easily work on a wire pair that has existing dialtone service, the existence of that dialtone service is NOT necessary. In other words, a wire pair can handle:

When I first got ADSL service, from a Telus competitor named "CADvision", it was an ideal arrangement. I paid my fees to CADvision. CADvision paid a rental fee to Telus for the use of a pair of copper wires, which terminated in my home at one end, and at a CADvision office in North Hill Mall at the other end. This was a DIFFERENT pair of wires than the pair which was providing my regular telephone service, which, I might add, I was getting from Sprint Canada and not from Telus. This arrangement meant less coordination was necessary between CADvision and Telus: that pair of wires was for their use EXCLUSIVELY and wasn't being shared with anybody else.

It all worked just great. Until I moved to another part of town.

In this new part of town, Telus insisted on a completely different arrangement. The copper wires belonged to them, and by God, they were going to control them. So now the arrangement was like this: I paid my fees to CADvision. CADvision provided an internet feed (over fibre I think) to the telephone central office that serves my area. This feed was connected to Telus-owned ADSL equipment inside that central office, and that equipment was connected to my phone line. Telus operated the ADSL service at their end, and I used a CADvision-owned ADSL "modem" at my end. The same pair of copper wires were used both for my voice telephone service and my ADSL data service.

So what's wrong with that?, you ask.

Simple. Telus insists (because they can and because the CRTC won't do fuck all about it) that:

The upshot? When I moved across town, I had to tell Sprint Canada, "hey, it's been great, but I have to go back to Telus because they won't let me do business with you anymore".

Now, at this point, Telus' "crime" really amounts only to a misdemeanour. The "crime" is in insisting on voice service on any wire pair with ADSL service.

It rises to a "high crime" when we move forward in time a little bit. I run a very popular website called The Old Time Radio Vault, which began to grown and require additional internet bandwidth. This meant installing another ADSL line. In fact, right now I have a total of five ADSL lines, four of which are devoted exclusively to the Vault (and for which I contracted with yet another Telus competitor, Nucleus Information Services, for the internet connection).

Guess what? Telus insists on voice service on each of those lines too, even though I don't have telephones connected to them! They're forcing me to pay for service I don't need. So instead of paying the $12/month (or thereabouts) CRTC-mandated fee for the rental of the copper wires themselves (without telephone service, just the use of the wires), I'm paying $26+/month. Per line, times five lines (I have a sixth line here now, for voice, provided by Sprint Canada - just to spite Telus). Telus is ripping me off to the tune of $70 per month, and the CRTC lets them get away with it.

Indeed, I did file a complaint with the CRTC over this issue. The CRTC's response was to direct Telus to respond to me directly in regards to my complaints. Telus responded but did NOT justify their position in any way. I sent a copy of Telus' letter to the CRTC and insisted that they reinstate my complaint, and asked that they reprimand Telus for failing to comply with their directive. I never got a response - which is hardly surprising. The CRTC has long been in the back pocket of Telus and the other incumbent telephone companies.

This practice (of requiring voice service on data lines) applies to every ADSL customer in the Calgary area now, since the demise of CADvision (at Telus' hands). For many, it's not an issue: they were Telus voice service customers to begin with, they're happy to remain Telus voice service customers, and they only have one phone line and one ADSL line. But for anyone who doesn't fit this pattern, primarily business customers and a few residential customers like myself, well... I don't know about you, but I usually like to be kissed before being screwed. At least Telus doesn't discriminate when it comes to fucking people: all of this applies whether or not you get your ADSL service from Telus or one of their (remaining) competitors.

There's one other thing to consider here, something I alluded to earlier. With the popularity of ADSL service growing every day, it becomes ever harder for companies like Sprint Canada to compete for voice service customers. Many people I know would certainly consider switching to Sprint: after all, in Canada we have "local number portability", which means you can switch to another company without having to change your phone number. That makes it convenient, but Telus fucks Sprint and the other competitors with this ridiculous "our dial tone only" requirement. It's bad enough that the CRTC allows Telus (and other incumbents) to continue to own the physical circuits while "competing" with Sprint Canada and others (and charging these competitors for the use of the copper, much of which has been in the ground or up on poles for decades and costs fuck-all to maintain), but in allowing this situation to continue, the CRTC fails in its mandate to protect the Canadian consumer and the Canadian telecommunications industry. It would not surprise me (though pain me greatly) to see Sprint Canada and/or others going out of business within the next five years. Competition, my ass.

On the other hand, somebody at Sprint told me that they may begin offering their own ADSL service sometime in 2003. Boy, I'd sure like to see that happen. As much as I really love the folks down at Nucleus (a really great bunch of people, truly!), the fact of the matter is that Telus is getting way too much of my money, both directly (monthly phone bills) and indirectly (the fees Nucleus pays to use Telus lines and equipment). If Sprint offered me something competitive, I would so be there. :-)

One final note: I mentioned earlier that I have a Sprint Canada voice line. I also mentioned that you can "port" your existing Telus phone number over to Sprint. If you sign up for brand-new Sprint service (as opposed to switching a line), Sprint assigns you a Sprint phone number, which in Calgary means a 313 prefix. Well, in my case, I ported the line over to Sprint, and once Sprint was in control of it, I called 'em up and told 'em to switch me to a 313 phone number. I want everyone that calls me to KNOW I've got a Sprint number. :-)

Because... well, because Telus Sucks.