You may think of Telus as your friendly local phone company, but behind the purple and green logos which have been smeared across our city and province lurks a sinister corporate entity bent on controlling several key industries in Alberta. Through its subsidiary companies, Telus provides local and long distance phone service, Internet, web site development, multimedia, wireless/cellular, data services, advertising services, television, and now Internet commerce.
That's a lot of fingers in a lot of pies for a "telephone" company. I wish I could fund my business ventures based on the sales of an essential service combined with government backing. To make matters worse, Telus has exhibited many behaviors which border on the ethical boundary. These include spying, "extortion," and iron-fisted control of the phone lines and switches, to name a few.
Telus admits that they spy on their competition to gain a competitive edge. In fact, Telus currently has at least six full-time employees whose directive is to "dig up dirt" on their competition. They claim their spying is perfectly legal. Consider the following example of their tactics and you decide if it fit's into your perception of fair business practices.
The Telus Multimedia Project. What started as a "technical trial" to assess the feasibility of high-bandwidth internet services and "interactive television", quickly degraded into a glossy marketing exercise with absolutely no substance or technical merit. Was this project ever intended to succeed or was this simply Telus' way of scoping out their competition in the multimedia market? Let's look at how the project played out.
Telus forms a subsidiary named Telus Multimedia which appears to exist to develop multimedia content for Telus. Telus Multimedia comes up with this nebulous large-scale multimedia project. The "best" local multimedia companies are invited to bid on the project, thereby giving Telus a nice collection of their competitions proposals, rates, and levels of expertise. The project turns out to be a bunch of nonsense. How do I know? My "friends" company teamed up with another local multimedia company to bid on this project. They got it. How convenient for Telus, two for the price of one. Given Telus' admitted penchant for spying, and the fact that they now advertise themselves as providing "multimedia services", one can't help but assume that the whole thing was simply a tactical maneuver to gain a leg-up in a market that they are just starting out in. Furthermore, this was not the first multimedia project tendered to local companies. It appears Telus is quite serious about building it's monopoly by any means necessary.
Telus was ordered by the CRTC (Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission) to terminate the Interactive Television project as they were not delivering the services they promised. Instead they were simply broadcasting regular cable television services. Telus simply ignored the CRTC's directive. You don't suppose Telus is interested in taking over the cable television market also? You'd better believe they are. Now with cable companies providing faster, cheaper alternatives to regular dial-up internet access, Telus is more eager than ever to drive the cable companies into the ground.
All of this is just the tip of the iceberg. Some highlights of Telus' hostile behavior in the past include:
- Offering grants to all Alberta schools to get connected to the Internet. Telus then goes back on their word and tries to refuse grants to those schools wishing to use non-Telus Internet services.
- Alberta ISP's sought the help of the CRTC to prevent Telus' Internet service monopoly. After having the ISP's jump through all of the appropriate legal hoops, the CRTC rolled over to Telus, as usual. Just try competing against a company who has the benefit of stuffing their glossy brochures in every phone bill and in the front of every phone book. The most debasing thing is that Telus gets to fund all of their promotion at our expense.
- Telus has blocked CADVision and Compusmart from being able to provide ADSL (high speed Internet connections). They control the phone lines. They control their competition. Welcome to a new era of telco dominance. The outcome of the CADVision lawsuit is STILL pending.
I hear Telus crying "but we're regulated by the CRTC". Sounds good in theory, however, the CRTC has quite the history of being Telus' "lap dog" and has made it very clear that they will readily roll over and allow Telus to do whatever they want.
A telephone monopoly is one thing. Most people simply could not afford to start a telephone company. This is the primary reason these monopolies are tolerated. But now Telus is expanding into many areas which will cause devastation to thousands of small businesses throughout our province. Internet, multimedia, advertising services, television, and Internet commerce, just to name a few. What next?
What is one to do when faced with such formidable competition and hollow governing bodies pandering to it's every wish? There is only one obvious way to stop the beast - don't use Telus services. With the onslaught of telecommunications deregulation, finding convenient cost-effective alternatives is as easy as it gets.