updated 02:25 pm EST, Thu December 13, 2007
85K Canada Cell Data Bill
Bell Canada has charged one of its subscribers with a near-unprecedented $85,000 phone bill that underscores the high price of data in the country, according to a new report. Oil field worker Piotr Staniaszek of Calgary received the bill after tethering his Motorola KRZR cellphone to his computer, allowing him to use it as a modem for Internet access while away at his remote workplace. Although he understood the phone to include a $10 monthly unlimited data plan and used the service to download large content, Staniaszek was informed after receiving the bill that the contract included a clause exempting the unlimited plan from applying to modem use, leading to the bandwidth charges.
The bill has been reduced to $3,243, or the equivalent for a dedicated PC adapter card, as a measure of "goodwill," according to Bell. The 22-year-old Staniaszek is planning to continue fighting the charge, maintaining that the bill is still too expensive and that he was never made aware of the special data rates either before or after he began using his cellphone for the connection.
"The thing is, they've cut my phone off for being like $100 over," he says. "Here, I'm $85,000 over and nobody bothered to give me a call and tell me what was going on."
The company has responded by arguing that it cannot monitor every user, though it did not account for why the Calgary man received different treatment for conventional phone calls.
The tally highlights frequent complaints by Canadians that data rates in the country for cellphones are inordinately high compared to the US and many other nations with advanced wireless networks. Although data charges have dropped dramatically for the majority of cell carriers in the country and now include special plans such as that offered to Staniaszcek, many typically include low monthly transfer limits of as little as 5MB and bring additional fees for certain activities.
Bell's main competitor Rogers has often been accused of having some of the highest rates in Canada and has generally been slowest to reduce prices to levels comparable to its rivals or other countries. A comparison this summer noted that a $60 iPhone plan, which includes both phone service and unlimited data, would cost roughly a $295 per month while still providing a fixed data limit.