[RndTbl] I...am not feeling too well...

Alberto Abrao alberto at abrao.net
Mon Mar 15 20:50:28 CDT 2021

On 2021-03-15 3:50 p.m., Adam Thompson wrote:
> You don't want Xplornet to get any bigger - they are a rolling 
> dumpster fire in many different ways.
> I think more competition is a good thing, yet I'd prefer Xplornet went 
> out of business altogether. Or at least nowhere near here. Thankfully, 
> Starlink will probably accomplish this.

I am still trying someone to rave about Xplornet.

On 2021-03-15 4:43 p.m., Scott Toderash wrote:
> I'm not saying it would be a good thing, but it could happen. It might 
> be an entertaining thing to watch from a distance.

Until the distance gets shorter and shorter... and then it happens to us.

I think I talked about this at one of our meetings, but it is really... 
amusing?... to watch this unfold here.

Because, back where I come from, things were the complete opposite. And 
it sucked nonetheless.

Back in the 80s, all telecommunications were owned by the government in 
Brazil. Period.

Although the bill was not increasing too much - in a period where 
inflation was measured in monthly double-digits increases, eventually 
reached hyperinflation, increases were often under that threshold 
precisely because the government was using it as a pressure relief 
mechanism - a phone line was, literally, an investment. Case in point: 
around 1995, my father was owed some nice chunk of money, around what a 
new vehicle would cost. The bloke could not pay cash, so he paid with a 
phone line instead. It was not a bad deal, financially speaking.

To me, especially, it was awesome: my father let me use the line, so I 
could play with BBSs without screeching noises annoying everyone else in 
the house. Sweet! I love you dad, wherever you are... you gave me my 
first "car"-worthy thing before I was even 10 years old. :)

One year later, though, right after it was all privatized, same line 
could be installed by paying R$ 20 (which amounted to around the same in 
USD around that time) to the telecom. Bummer. The country benefited a 
lot from that, even though my dad was... not amused, to say the least.

It dawned on me though that the government can't really run a business 
properly. Companies just compete, fiercely. Or so we're told. Except in 
Brazil, because it sucks and the government @*(@$*s everything, and 
private businesses are all love, sunshine and rainbows.

Now I am going to The First World(tm), where everything works and, 
obviously, both Government AND private entities are angels! So I move 
here, expecting to be blown away by Internet (and, well, everything 
else), only to find out that what I can get for Internet in the province 
of Ontario is... worse than what I could have in Brazil. And more 
expensive, all things considered. What?

Well, it was also Ontario, but not really (aka "not GTA"). Also, it was 
the University residence, but for some reason only DSL was provided. Oh 
well, bummer.

Then, up north, I had comparable speeds (5/1. vs 10/1 in Ontario), but 
the damn cap. I did not realize the Xbox would update all games on 
standby, but I quickly did when I had to pay 3x my monthly bill because 
I went (way) past the data cap. Ouch.

So yes, moving to Brandon, I was blown away by 40/4 from Westman. At 
least it was Cable! And 40Mbps, whoooooossshhhhh! And it cost the same 
as NorthwesTel - sans data caps, obviously. And thankfully.

Then, I move to Saskatchewan, a city 1/5th the size of Brandon. I was 
expecting the dark ages...

... and I get fibre to the home. 300/80. For around the same amount I 
was paying in Brandon. And with two static IPs for free as well.

Then, I decide to check out a cell phone plan... and mostly all plans 
are SK only. And *a lot* cheaper than any other province, even when 
buying from Bell, Telus and so on. Why is that?

Well, they all have to compete with SaskTel. A Crown Corporation. 
Government Owned. A fuse blew instantly on my mind. "But the government 
can't run business!".

Now, looking back, there's one thing Brazil did right when privatizing: 
it emulated the European model in many ways. And, amusingly, its 
regulatory agency is one of the few things that actually work (somewhat) 
properly, enough to make phone service (somewhat) affordable for 
everyone, pretty much everywhere in the country. Not perfect, but coming 
from a reality where having a phone line *alone*, like in the 80s and 
early 90s, was a dead giveaway that you were *rich*, it was surely a 
huge improvement, to the point where I can see many things it did right 
even when looking from the lens of a country that dwarfs its GDP per capita.

Back in Saskatchewan, I realized that Government done right can be a 
good thing, as long as you keep it from "going full retard". Oddly, same 
applies for private businesses as well. SaskTel is not a monopoly, but 
its presence tunes down the Shareholders Über Alles vibe of all private 
telecom incumbents that operate there. Telebrás (the Brazilian 
state-owned telecom), having no (private) competition, could go down the 
mismanagement rabbit hole in a way that only the government's deep 
pockets can afford.

Weirdly enough, Saskatchewanians complain about SaskTel just like 
Brazilians did about Telebrás, and many also think that getting rid of 
it and having only private companies would be oh so much better. One of 
the intangible benefits of immigration is perspective, that is for sure.

Now here, I've yet to find someone who tells me that the CRTC has any 
teeth. Strike one. It also seem to like paying lip-service to the sheer 
lack of competition and investment of the main incumbents, strike two. 
For the current Shaw+Rogers deal, many talking heads talk about it as if 
it were a done deal, like the CRTC has no say about it... because it 
doesn't? Strike three.

I don't see them going through all of that just to make their lives 
harder, to make sure they have to invest more in infrastructure, or 
offer better cheaper, better service. They could do all of that right 
now if they wanted.

Shaw, like T-Mobile in the US, had to care because it was not big enough 
not to. T-Mobile eventually grew to the point where it was able to start 
being a douche. Shaw is en route to be absorbed by one.

I hope I am wrong, though.

Kind regards,
Alberto Abrao

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