Canadian ISP Rogers Hijacking Web Pages

Rogers stirred up a storm this week with revelations that it is splicing its content into other companies’ webpages.

rogersgoogleAll of the reports I’ve seen have referred to this under the banner of "net neutrality."

For those of you that don’t speak geek, here’s the basic gist.

Rogers is, in essence, forcing customers to view content they haven’t asked for… on other peoples’ websites.

Alongside the disturbing side to this, as Shel Holtz points out, it also raises questions about what other companies could do with this technology.

Google Isn’t Happy

I wonder how Google feels about Rogers essentially deciding it can ignore Google’s advertising system and slap its content on any page it likes.

Oh, wait, we know.

Here’s a quote from a Toronto Star article:

"As a general principle, we believe that maintaining the Internet as a neutral platform means that carriers shouldn’t be able to interfere with Web content without users’ permission," the Google statement said. "We are in the process of contacting the relevant parties to bring this to a quick resolution."

This isn’t limited to Google’s pages, either. Here’s a quote from Rogers communications VP Taanta Gupta, from an ars technica article:

"We do not interfere with the content of the search (it could easily have been a Rogers yahoo search or any web site visit so is certainly not specific to any search engine or web site). "

Both traditional media and the blogosphere immediately slammed the move, with Christopher S. Penn calling for Rogers customers to drop the company immediately.

Customer Disservice

Rather than following Penn’s suggestion and dropping Rogers immediately, I contacted the company myself:

I’d like to comment on the various news reports about Rogers inserting its own content onto sites viewed by Rogers users.

I STRONGLY encourage you not to pursue this approach.

If this becomes standard and I see Rogers content inserted onto pages I view, I will immediately move to a different service provider, taking my cable and cell phone accounts with me.

Later in the day, I received this response:

Thank you for taking the time to write to us, we appreciate your use of online customer service.

In your recent email, you have informed us that you concerned with the various reports concerning Rogers inserting content onto sites viewed by Rogers s users.

We do apologize for any confusion that may have resulted.

Providing an automated real-time message while customers are browsing is a more effective and preferable means of usage notification than sending an e-mail which customers may not see in a timely manner. I can assure you that there are no privacy issues around this process   it s an automated message that is simply tagged onto the page being viewed and does not alter customers  data requests.

We are pleased to have been able to address your inquiry. For additional information please visit our website at www.rogers.com.

You are a valued customer and we thank you for your business.

For future email correspondence with respect to this e-mail, please quote reference number [deleted]

Regards,
[deleted]
Rogers Online Customer Service http://www.rogers.com

Rogers just doesn’t get it.

Leaving aside the awful spelling and grammar in the response (suggestion: maybe try hiring some people who can copy & paste properly), here are my thoughts:

  • This response does nothing to show they might take my concerns into account with their ‘test.’ There’s no evidence they’re listening to their customers.
  • I didn’t mention privacy anywhere in my note. Their reply actually leaves me with more concerns than I started with.
  • They didn’t address my query, but assumed they did.
  • I sent Rogers a specific concern; they responded with a generic link to the same website I originally contacted them from. Amazingly, I couldn’t find anything about this issue on that site.

What’s a better reply, I hear you ask?

Off the top of my head, how about:

Thank you for taking the time to contact us, and for alerting us to your concerns.

You expressed some misgivings about a test we are conducting to help us communicate better with our customers.

Please be assured that this is currently just a pilot project. We will consider all the feedback we receive from our customers before deciding whether to introduce this feature more widely.

If you would like more information on this test please visit www.rogers.com/specificinformation.

Thank you again for your feedback and your valued business…

If you’d like to have your say, you can contact Rogers here.

Personally, after their pathetic response to my concerns, I’m now considering dropping them anyway.

  • Ash

    many thnks, very informative

  • Long experience has shown me that the only language companies like Rogers understand is the one heard when you open your wallet. Vote with your wallet, and words are no longer necessary.

  • I see Christopher Penn’s view and even I thought of it myself if my provider were to start doing that (which I’m assuming they will) but most people are too lazy to switch providers.

    They’d have to go through the hassle of bringing back equipment (if they need to) then getting a new one and reconfiguring their machines with the new provider (during Christmas season). Or rather, the other provider. Here in Canada, there isn’t much choice for high speed. I have heard of other high speed companies but I don’t know how reliable/fast they are.

    On the other hand, in this case, what Rogers is doing is disruptive and incredibly frustrating so I can see a few disgruntled cable customers going out of their way to cancel.

  • Ash – thanks – glad you found it useful.

    Christopher – you may be right – this isn’t the first time Rogers has shown a complete distain for its customers (remember the negative-option billing fiasco?).

    Daniele – sad but true. Chances are high that they’ll move ahead with this, and the switching costs are so high for customers that most will just suck it up. Another question in my mind is, what if they start to use it for purposes other than alerting people about their bandwidth use? What if they just want to push marketing messages? How far will they push this? Looks like a slippery slope to me.

  • Red

    it’s funny, they keep on behaving like they think they’re the only game in town when in reality, there is a ton of choice, and they’re one of the most expensive.

    http://www.canadianisp.com

    i guess we’re all paying for our complacence by not researching ISPs in the first place.