Shaw has announced new broadband plans that offer far more data, faster speeds, and better pricing than comparable plans at competitors such as Rogers, Bell, and Telus. Shaw says the plans will be rolled out over the coming months and offer far bigger caps (including some unlimited plans). While the company says the move is linked to a shift away from analog channels, it seems more likely that Shaw is the first of the large ISPs to respond to mounting public and political pressure over the uncompetitive pricing in the Canadian broadband market. Consumer regulation from the CRTC is not likely in the short term, but government officials have made it clear that they are concerned with the current competitive environment.
The Shaw pricing plan will undoubtedly place significant pressure on its competitors, who will face questions from their customers about the disparity in service plans. For example, starting June 7, 2011, Shaw will offer 100 Mbps download, 5 Mbps upload, with a 500 GB monthly data cap for $69.00 per month (for those with its Legacy TV product). By comparison, Rogers Extreme Plus also retails for $69.00 per month but only offers 25 Mbps download, 1 Mbps upload, and a 125 GB cap. Starting August 2011, Shaw will offer a plan of 250 Mbps download, 15 Mbps upload, and a data cap of 1 TB for $99.00 per month. For $99.00 with Rogers, customers get 50 Mbps download, 2 Mbps upload, and a 175 GB cap.
The differences between the two major cable providers are dramatic and raise questions about whether the other major providers will match Shaw’s broadband plans. Moreover, they confirm what many have long argued about usage based billing in Canada – it is not about network congestion nor about paying for what you use. Rather, UBB in Canada is simply a cash grab by network providers with sufficient market power to demand it.