Network Locked

mifi2372I keep wondering why carriers are stuck in a business model that is so anti-consumer? Is it because having to compete on price and customer demand is too scary? Or are customers so undesirable that it’s easiest to think about them as ARPU instead of real customers.

This all started with I would like to purchase a Novatel MiFi 2372 to use on a Canadian carrier. Currently the only provider with this device is Bell Canada. I am currently a Rogers subscriber, and I have been been for a long time (There was a brief period in June-September 2007 where I was a Bell customer because it was the network of choice by my employer). However, as soon as possible I transferred my account to Rogers, mainly because GSM was a better choice for me. I’ve finally had enough of not having a reliable, high speed network connection around the city. I was looking at buying a Rogers Rocket Stick, but I’ve seen the MiFi and damn it, it looks like a great portable solution (basically I can share my HSPA connection with a variety of device and colleagues). I’m happy to purchase the device outright, and I’m happy to agree to a network service term (30 days), but I want the option to move the device between carriers. It is after all, a thing that I own after I’ve purchased it.

It has brought up a lot of questions for me about consumer rights in Canada. Is this a provincial issue (Ministry of Consumer Services)? A federal issue (Canada’s Office of Consumer Affairs)? What happens if I purchase a device and choose to unlock it? Is this prevented by copyright law?

“Section 41 of the Bill states that, subject to certain exceptions, it is illegal to to descramble a scrambled work, to decrypt an encrypted work, or to otherwise avoid, bypass, remove, deactivate or a technological measure.” – CIPPIC

But this is only relevant if I choose to unlock the device, or pay someone else to unlock the device. It’s my device. I may not own the copyright, but I own the right to resell it to another individual. Why should the carrier be able to lock the device to their Network?

“Unlocking a Device may void the manufacturer’s warranty and Bell will not provide a warranty or any return policy for the unlocked Device.” – Bell Wireless terms of service

I’m assuming that this means that Bell has realized that they must provide unlocking, however charging a $250 fee (or is it a $75 unlocking fee for non-iPhones) this seems a little crazy. It feels like a cash grab, particularly on hardware that they have sold to customers. I don’t need to pay a service fee to unlock a book or DVD. Why should I be forced to pay a fee to correct something that a carrier is doing anyway? Is there a consumer manifesto for this? Who is representing the Canadian citizens?

No Rocket Stick. No MiFi. I’m waiting for a new phone. I’m left waiting and network locked.


Sidenote: I need to read more about Joe Clark’s The Cranky Copyright Book and his Comments submitted to copyright consultation. I respect Joe’s opinion, and I appreciate his contrarian viewpoint. And I’m truly interested in his opinion on copyright law, something I know very little about. And it’s nice to see an addition to the expected voices of Cory Doctorow, Michael Geist, and Lawrence Lessig. Two of whom I’ve supported by purchasing their books.