Rogers’ Scare Tactics and “Unsafe Public Wifi”

As I tweeted yesterday, I had a surprising experience with Rogers customer service yesterday.  I was calling to add a text plan to my wife’s cellphone account (the fact that her current plan – which includes hundreds of voice minutes, 1 GB of data, and an assortment of additional services – still charges 15 cents (soon 20 cents) per text is fodder for different post).  After I agreed to pay a few more dollars each month to cover texts, the agent asked if used my laptop to access public wifi networks.  When I said that I did, he asked if I knew the dangers of using public wifi, which I was told included the possibility of hackers accessing my data or inserting viruses onto my computer.  Given the risks, the agent continued, might I be interested in the Rogers’ Rocket Stick?

In my view, these scare tactics are shameful.  Mobile internet services are good products that can and should be sold on the basis of the convenience they provide, not by scaring consumers into thinking that alternative access services are unsafe.  Yet the Rogers agent went for the FUD approach despite the facts that:

  • Rogers operates hundreds of public wifi hotspots across the country. When promoting its hotspots, it describes them as providing “high-speed, secure access to the Internet.”
  • Rogers permits Internet tethering from many smartphones. Many users may find that tethering provides a more cost effective solution than purchasing yet another mobile Internet device.  The agent did not mention this alternative.
  • There are risks with public wifi, but those can be mitigated through a variety of steps on users’ computers. Advice on what do include Microsoft’s advice on public wifi networks, Lifehacker on how to stay safe on public wifi networks, and Ars Technica on staying safe at public hotspots.

Bad or inappropriate customer service can happen in any company, but when taken with the Competition Bureau $10 million fine for Rogers’ misleading wireless claims and the CRTC’s concern with its non-compliance with Internet traffic management disclosure requirements, it does not paint a pretty picture of one of Canada’s dominant communications companies.


  1. @Michael:

    The truth is that your only real protection on Wi-Fi spots is using a correctly implemented VPN. Noting the cost mentioned in your link:

    “I’ve long used and recommended WiTopia, which has services ranging from $39.99 for the lowest-end VPN service to $69.99 for a bundle of offerings, including SSL, IPsec, and PPTP connections.”

    the rocket stick is indeed a very competitive option. Especially since you’ll have internet access everywhere, not only in a public hotspot.

    Of course if you already have “free” VPN (like one provided by your employer), then things change.


  2. Rogers Wifi secure?
    How can Rogers wifi be secure? It is like any other public access point, not encrypted (even though we have seen that wifi encryption, even WPA2, is far from secure).

  3. I laughed so hard that I snorted
    hahaha I love this post!

  4. Not wrong, but incomplete
    While I agree that the rep’s use of fear to sell product was inappropriate, the truth is, he wasn’t misleading you. Every time I’m in a hotel or other public spot and do a WiFi survey, I see potentially suspect access points labeled “Free Public wiFi” etc. And even though Windows identifies them as ad-hoc networks which is a sure sign of a problem, I can see many inexperienced people being duped. If these people want a truly worry-free way to connect when on-the-go, the rocket stick products do provide the service, as advertised. Is it the only option? No. But it’s likely the easiest for the risk-averse.

  5. john walker says:

    Friends do business in china, many these days leave their mobiles back in Australia, apparently even if a mobile is switched off it can still be hacked into. Best to assume that anything ‘networked’ is potentially insecure.

  6. It depends
    Little experience with Rogers since I only use them for basic cable TV, but my Bell service calls have usually been pretty good for looking at the package of services and whether to change them or not. Customer reps told me, for example, that my internet and prepaid cell plans are “legacy” and can’t be beat with current offerings. One expects and relies on that. Obviously, they won’t tell me that some other provider has a better deal, but I agree with MG that they should talk you to the best combination of their company’s services.

  7. Mobile internet security
    Since we’re at mobile internet… may I submit this product to your attention:

    it will stay between your Rocket Stick (or Turbo Stick in Bell parlance) and your computer, adding an additional hardware firewall layer (so you don’t have to rely exclusively on your OS software firewall).


  8. I had the Rogers CSR ask me exactly the same question after activating my iPhone with a big data plan. I had originally explained that I wanted the data plan for tethering my laptop. Once I was done, he went into the pitch for the Rocket Stick. My response was simple, “Why would I need one?” I subsequently found that this was part of their script. They can be fired if they don’t ask.

  9. No new problem here …
    Customer ‘sales’ often trumps customer service, it’s just too tempting for middle managers to push as much as possible to make them look good up the ladder.

    The real problem is the scarcity of competition which is the only thing that will improve the service and value offered.

  10. public wifi
    Rogers may not have given you complete information, but I’m going to have to disagree with your assessment in this case. Public WiFi has a lot of issues, and the Rocket Stick may be a legitimate way to make things more secure. Of course it’s always possible to use SSL (or VPN) to be secure on a public wifi as well, but it may be an inferior method for some users.

  11. Geeks aren’t the target…
    Most of the time comments about things like this are from the geek crowd (of which I belong to). They understand security… how VPNs and even basic SSL can help secure your communications. But we’re not the ones the Rogers sales drone is targeting. They’re after the average shmuck with a laptop who couldn’t tell the difference between a USB port and a light socket. They have no clue what the dangers really are and even LESS clue about how to mitigate their risks. So though pushing the RocketStick with FUD is distasteful I wonder if there might actually be benefits to that approach?

  12. kill_netflix says:

    Apart from losing market share, seems like the Rogers establishment has also lost it’s mind.

    or maybe they have taken a page out of the conservatives ad campaign policy. Me good, everyone else bad. Join me.

  13. Firesheep
    For all that Rogers is trying to do a fear sell… follow the instructions to install the Firesheep add on for Firefox, then sit in a Starbucks with other people using Wi-Fi and see just how easy taking over someones Facebook account is. I believe somebody else said it, but the only “secure” wi-fi access is when WPA or WPA2 is used at the AP level.

  14. Fear Sell
    Rogers is trying to do a fear sell. Just read the points Prof. Geist mentions in his post. If they honestly only cared about helping people improve their security, they might have mentioned some of those things, instead they try and push their over priced datastick. Just more disgusting but completely unsurprising and expected corporate behavior.

  15. Rogers “Cable Guy” Steve in telemarketing….
    Steve: Do you know that public WiFi is insecure and can compromise your computer’s security?
    Me: Yeah, so, I run Linux.
    Steve: [pause] I’m not familiar with that. Is that a type of Mac?
    Me: And you likely will never be familiar with it, Steve. Goodnight.

  16. BootToTheHead says:

    Kill_Netflix: Yes, they likely have gone bonkers like most current politicians. That’s why satires like this are becoming more real than satire:

  17. smartphones already bridged this gap
    A handful of smartphones already have bridges this gap, you can create your own private WiFi network for your laptop with your phone, using the phone’s cellular connection and it’s WiFi radio. Just like tethering, but easier and more useful (as you could potentiall let your friend’s laptop online too)

    Why telcos insist that you have to pay per month for each device amazes me. Why can’t you just share data from one plan on two devices?

  18. Legitimate security for users who don’t know otherwise
    It’s fear mongering, but with trivially easy to use hacking tools like Firesheep available and a notable lack of https use with many popular online services, it isn’t a terrible suggestion. That all said, tethering is just as easy as using a rocketstick; you just need to watch data usage to be sure you’re not going overboard.

    If you are using a smartphone, drop the texting plan. There are many substitutes for exorbitantly overpriced text messaging plans such as email and various instant messaging programs (Facebook/AOL/MSN/ICQ etc.) which use only a small amount of the data allowance included on your plan.

  20. author = douchebag
    what a whiny little girl. public wifi is not secure, that is a fact. the solution he provided you is, that is also a fact. the rest is just your simple-minded interpretation, based on a preconceived hatred for a canadian media giant (bully). clearly the author was a victim of schoolyard bullying and is not trying to right his ship. the rogers rep gave you truthful advice and you write a blog and call it fear-mongering? by all means connect to unsecured networks and potentially have all of your private information including credit card numbers and banks accounts made readily available to god knows who. will this happen? most likely not, but that doesn’t change the FACTS of the matter. only a complete ass would spin this in the manner you are. this is anti-rogers balogna at its finest. truly pathetic. i have read blogs from you previously and i expect nothing less reading another from a pencil-necked dork who is clearly trying to make up for years of abuse he suffered throughout his childhood.

  21. No security is security.
    Take comfort in the knowledge that there is no such thing as secure when it comes to wifi. Use commonsense, you’re in public place, would you bring your private papers and files and spread them on the table for people to flip through?

    Stick to shopping for shoes n surfing pr0n and you’ll be fine.


  22. Canadian born Muslim dude says:

    Contracted by Rogers communications, how?
    My impression of Rogers via it’s contractors

    I had never worked for rogers although i always wanted to get a permanent job working for rogers but it seemed most of the work including entry level jobs was hard to reach and the only thing available in my area was working as a installation technicians for either intake or sc360 recently known as Metafor.

    I learned that techs are not recruited as easily into rogers directly unless they have put in years for their sub-contracting companies such as sc360 or intek where this lady named Amanda kept putting me on since April, then in august said they will be training people soon but never called me back for an interview so in November i walked in and applied at sc360.

    I heard Rogers is a Canadian company that provides Canadians with jobs but it is far from the truth, i noticed there is no sense of respect nor professionalism in these companies which Rogers contracts it’s services to who handle Rogers customers on the front lines, what i notice is that many people got jobs through other family members as their entrance, whites seem to secure jobs for other whites in east end, immigrants help other immigrants who happen to be the same exact race, such as Guyanese, Latinos, Chinese and Russians mostly as managers and trainers.

    The regional manager himself spoke in a Russian accent and would behave like some Italian mob boss, he terminated my work in the last week of my probation period without a single valid reason when asked for decencies, after the hard work in the cold and working all throughout the holidays and giving up chance to work for other employers since most of the hiring for companies are done in January not in February. As they applied their powers without a single warning from instructor at the training in Markham or trainer or the managers in Ajax i felt It would have been better just being laid-off but the contract states even with no reason or charge-backs it can be done by their management it is similar to a worker walking out on a job or not showing up to work as his last day or not giving a notice to the employer.

    They had provided inadequate training which last only a month in actuality, the trainer would show up an hour late every single training day and would rush through the day without explanation or teaching of installation of products and coding into RTD, only CSE and wall plates is how most of the training days were spent, Although had brought it to the attention of Markham they did not provide a different trainer in Ajax and said it is a battle that cannot be won.

    I learned when working alone you will be subjected to days without orders and they will not compensate you for a 40 hour work week even though you work 44 hours a week and are a full time employee, also i learned that while theory training in Markham you may be subjected to your instructor calling you a jihadi and techs referring to others as Pakies, it is very unfortunate that this took place not once but twice.

    I also learned that up sells are discouraged by management due to the time which takes for techs to communicate with PSSG, FSC and Dispatch having to recreate a new work order since the MPA at 360 does not provide an option for being offsite or recreating a truck-roll on a new order not to mention 99% of refurbished products being handed to customers are not provisioned properly and some are in very bad shape to begin with, boxes where the spigot in the back are bent and the system shuts on and off,some with a oily black tar like coating on the dtv’s, pvr’s, and hdbx’s.

    I had many chances to sell products for rogers but due to the limited time frame, lack of training and discouragement from management i gave up the chance many times. Also i noticed the vehicles were in bad shape inside as they were handed on the first day and they do not provide place to set your laptops which you have to place on the passenger seat or in between the steering wheel contributing to ergonomics which just happens to be part of Rogers certification.

    I learned it’s not about making sure FTR is applied rather how much money you can make for 360 by being fast and jumping onto other orders, despite how many charge-backs you may have, using amps, attenuators and other means to provide a temporary fix to the problems as well as ignoring the opportunity for making up-sells of rogers products.

    Rogers happily contracts it’s services and training to people like the above and people like myself with no college degree have to be subjected to them by having to go through there rough, degrading behaviors just to get a good reference to apply for work at Rogers directly, i feel it’s not even worth working for Rogers, since they would provide their services through companies like the above. I am sure they have a better management system and apply professionalism outside of the east end region of Ontario, Canada.