Woe, Canada

I'm Canadian and proud of it. Despite the fact that Macworld operates out of San Francisco, I still live in Halifax, Nova Scotia with my wife, two kids and our dog. It's a wonderful place to live and bring up a family. However, not everything is peachy up here, north of the border.

Specifically, for the past couple of weeks, I've had an uneasy feeling--the kind of feeling you get when you are walking in a strange city late at night and you notice a gang of thugs behind you. The difference is, these thugs wear suits and work for Rogers. Don't let the suits fool you, they are trying to rob me blind.

I'm referring, of course, to the iPhone plans announced by Rogers Wireless, which is Apple's iPhone partner here in Canada. The plans (all priced in Canadian dollars) are $60 a month for 150 weekday minutes, 400MB of data, and 75 text messages; $75 for 300 weekday minutes, 750MB of data, and 100 text messages; $100 for 600 weekday minutes, 1GB of data, and 200 text messages; and $115 for 800 weekday minutes, 2GB of data, and 300 text messages. Each plan also includes unlimited evening and weekend minutes (9 p.m. to 7 a.m.), visual voicemail, and access to Rogers Wireless and Fido Hotspots. Sending additional text messages will cost 15 cents per message, and additional data is billed at a rate of 50 cents per megabyte for the first 60MB, and then an additional 3 cents per megabyte. The price for extra weekday minutes varies depending on the plan, ranging from 35 cents to 15 cents.

No word on whether Rogers also wants one of my kids and an extra limb or two as well.

Compare what Rogers offers to AT&T's plan. For $69 a month, AT&T offers 450 minutes, not to mention unlimited data, visual voicemail and unlimited mobile to mobile. Unlimited texting costs an extra $20.

In contrast, Rogers doesn't have an unlimited data plan of any kind--nothing at all. For a phone whose major marketing point is its capabilities as a breakthrough Internet communication device, that policy seems... well, misguided is the polite way to put it. Totally nonsensical would also be an apt description.

Of course, totally nonsensical would also explain Rogers' Rogers reasoning for its pricing plans. "Unlimited plans could end up costing customers more for what they don't use," a Rogers spokeswoman argues. "Our iPhone plans more than accommodate the vast majority of customers."

That's a printed statement, so there's no way for me to tell if the Rogers spokeswoman said it with a straight face.

From the point of view of this Canadian, it seems like Rogers is gouging its customers because it can. This is a company that has always stuck its customers with additional system access fees and other nickel and dime charges. And people are fed up.

I've received my iPhone service through AT&T since the phone's debut last June. Yes, there were some initial mishaps in setting up the account, but by and large, AT&T has been good to deal with in the past year.

Sadly, Apple didn't have much of a choice but to go with Rogers in Canada. If you want nationwide coverage in Canada, you basically have to opt for Rogers. And as a result, the iPhone will have a hard time reaching its potential in my country. Like millions of other users, I know what an amazing device the iPhone can be, but I fear that most Canadians are unlikely to have the same experience that I've enjoyed, as they'll be carefully monitoring their data and minute usage so as not to rack up extra charges.

In the week-and-a-half since Rogers unveiled its iPhone 3G plans, almost 45,000 people have already signed a petition expressing their dissatisfaction with what the company is offering. It seems unlikely that a virtual petition will have much of an impact. What we really need is for the Canadian market to open up--have another service provider come in with more competitive rates, which in turn, might force Rogers to offer something less odious to customers. But that, too, seems unlikely to happen any time soon.

So we hope everyone in the 20 other countries where the iPhone 3G ships on Friday enjoys getting their hands on the new phone. And we hope you understand why, up in Canada at least, our enthusiasm for the new iPhone has dimmed somewhat.

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