• Carriers

    by Published on 06-16-2017 07:45 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Commentary and Analysis,
    3. Carriers



    For mobile users in Canada the biggest news story of the week, perhaps the year, is a new decision by Canada's Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission to free users from carrier locks on their devices starting December 1st, 2017. Even better, effective this date new users who are unhappy with their carrier will be able to return their hardware and walk away at no cost, so long as they've used less than half of the data bucket on their monthly plan.

    It's not hard to see what the CRTC is trying to do here, to force Canada's Big Three carriers to compete more honestly on the strength of their networks, and hopefully price. I don't actually think that the price thing is going to play out like the CRTC wants it to; if recent history has taught us anything we know that carriers will always find a way to make up for lost revenue at the expense of their customers. In other words, come December 1st plan prices will almost certainly go up.

    And while it's probably out of the question for the CRTC to regulate plan prices, they could perhaps regulate data overages.

    Currently our Wireless Code mandates that carriers notify a customers when their data overages reach $100, and the customer must give their express consent to go over that limit. The unfortunate fact about that is data overages have gotten so expensive in this country that it's way too easy to reach the $100 threshold. I'll use two currently desirable Big Three plans as examples.

    If you hadn't heard, Public Mobile is once again offering a promotion on their 90 day prepaid plan that effectively gives you 4 GB of data per month for $40. Since it's a prepaid plan you won't be dinged for extra data; you have to purchase it yourself in increments of 200 MB or 1 GB. But that extra 1 GB will cost you a whopping $30. On a $40 / 4 GB plan that just doesn't make sense.

    Or take Koodo's Québec-only limited time offer of 6 GB for $49, available to anyone anywhere in Canada who's willing to jump through a few extra hoops. If you go over that 6 GB data allotment Koodo will charge you $5 per additional 100 MB, or an even more egregious $50 per GB!

    Three years ago the standard data overage charge was a mere $10 per GB; what else but a Big Three cash grab can explain the skyrocketing rates? We need an intervention to stop this madness, and I'm hoping that the CRTC is up for the task...

    Links: CRTC (1) (2)

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    by Published on 06-08-2017 07:00 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Commentary and Analysis,
    3. Carriers



    OpenSignal has published their semi-annual "state of LTE" report, with data from more than half a million devices across some 75 countries. The graph above is likely the one that you'll be most interested in, ranking average 4G download speeds by country. The top 10 are as follows:

    Singapore: 45.62 Mbps
    South Korea: 43.46 Mbps
    Hungary: 42.61 Mbps
    Norway: 41.36 Mbps
    Netherlands: 38.36 Mbps
    Luxembourg: 35.44 Mbps
    Croatia: 35.19 Mbps
    New Zealand: 34.91 Mbps
    Bulgaria: 34.07 Mbps
    Australia: 33.76 Mbps

    And if you were wondering what speeds were like closer to home:

    Canada (13th): 30.58 Mbps
    USA (59th): 14.99 Mbps

    For further insights see the link directly below. And if you disagree with the data you can make it more accurate for their next report by downloading the OpenSignal app for Android or iOS.

    Source: OpenSignal

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    by Published on 06-05-2017 07:00 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Commentary and Analysis,
    3. Carriers



    So the Computex trade show just wrapped up in Taipei, Taiwan, and if you believe Engadget the age of the embedded SIM is upon us. The world's four biggest PC vendors—Lenovo, HP, Dell and ASUS—have all pledged to build Windows machines (presumably laptops) with eSIM support. It's a bit odd if you think about it; while an embedded SIM makes sense in a tight space like a smartwatch a laptop would has plenty of room for a traditional SIM card. But apparently Intel is developing an eSIM that provides a persistent gigabit data connection over LTE.

    So are eSIMs inevitable for smartphones as well? I sure hope not. My problem with embedded SIMs is that they force the user to cede control of their data connection to someone else.

    For the last decade or so every mobile phone I've owned has been free of carrier locks—meaning that right out of the box I could insert my SIM card of choice, and as long as my carrier's bands were supported I'd be good to go. As an added bonus I've also been able to remove said SIM card and gift or sell my hardware to someone else when I'm done with it, so that they can do the same.

    With an eSIM the user has to select and/or change their carrier through software, which doesn't sound like a big deal but is nonetheless an additional barrier between you and your connection. A software interface gives a third party the power to block a carrier or even a specific plan from your electronic property. At best an eSIM provides multiple, competing interests a means to make your device worse. Don't believe me? Look no further than the Apple SIM; when it launched in 2014 AT&T used it to lock users to that network, while Verizon banned it altogether. That dream of having carriers competing to give you a data connection didn't exactly pan out.

    It might be a minor inconvenience having to deal with APNs, SIM card trays and ejector tools, but I'm still a big fan of physical SIMs. In fact, I'd take dual-SIM support over an eSIM any day of the week.

    Links: Engadget
    by Published on 05-29-2017 07:00 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Carriers,
    3. Apps



    Here's my story. I'm hoping you'll share yours as well...

    On the morning that my mom died I was waiting for a text from my older brother, the main point of contact for the hospital where we had brought her the day before. I did get a phone call shortly before 7am but again, the text never came—and I had been awake and waiting for it since about 4.

    As an Android user my first instinct was to blame iMessage, but the more I think about it the more I believe it was some combination of iMessage and MMS. I actually have two older brothers and both of them use iPhones, much to my dismay (not really). What happened was that the brother who was contacted by the hospital sent a group text to my other brother and I. The oldest brother received the message on his iPhone without issue; the youngest brother on his Android phone (me) did not.

    SMS has been a fairly critical means of communication for me over the past two years; I've relied on it to organize my mom's around-the-clock care. In my experience the only way that bulk texting works reliably is if I set my app to send group texts as individual messages. This isn't ideal because it makes it harder to read through replies, but at least it works. My current Android SMS app does this by default; surely there's a similar option for iMessage...?

    Again, in my case it wasn't the absolute end of the world. But if you have to call someone and ask them if they got your text then messaging has failed for both of you. I personally have been using SMS for at least 17 years, and the technology has been around longer than that. This stuff should have been figured out by now, but clearly hasn't.

    Please feel free to name and shame your carrier, app and/or mobile messaging technology below.

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    by Published on 04-04-2017 07:00 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Carriers



    DSL Reports has the scoop on an analyst event scheduled for this Thursday morning at 9:00am Eastern, to discuss the details of its "previously announced mobile initiative, which utilizes an existing MVNO agreement."

    The service, expected to launch sometime this year, is rumoured to operate primarily on a network of WiFi hotspots, using Verizon as a fallback. The good news is that existing Comcast customers will be able to bundle wireless service with their existing subscriptions. Pricing and data plans, however, are not yet known, and Comcast's existing broadband service is fairly infamous for its arbitrary bandwidth caps and overage fees.

    Is anybody excited to get their wireless service from Comcast?

    Source: Business Wire via DSL Reports

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    by Published on 03-31-2017 07:00 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Carriers,
    3. Apps



    With Congress having cleared the way for U.S. operators to sell your browsing history to advertisers, Verizon is wasting no time, partnering with the developers of the popular Android launcher Evie to bring a new search tool to its customers on that platform. Unlike Evie, this new Verizon app isn't exactly getting rave reviews. Here's Cory Doctorow to explain why:

    "AppFlash" will come pre-installed on all Verizon Android handsets; it's a Google search bar replacement, but instead of feeding telemetry about your searches, handset, apps and activities to Google, it will send them to Verizon.
    The Electronic Frontier Foundation pored through Verizon's privacy policy for AppFlash, and found proof that your data will indeed be sold to third parties:

    “AppFlash information may be shared within the Verizon family of companies, including companies like AOL who may use it to help provide more relevant advertising within the AppFlash experience and in other places, including non-Verizon sites, services and devices.”
    If you're an Android user with a Verizon-branded phone, you might want to look into rooting and de-bloating it.

    Sources: Android Police, Boing Boing, EFF, The Verge

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    by Published on 03-23-2017 07:30 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Commentary and Analysis,
    3. Carriers



    Canadian Finance Minister Bill Morneau (seen above) released his government's 2017 budget yesterday, and at least two sources that I follow for digital rights in this country have already expressed concern over a vague passage contained therein. Here is that passage:

    To ensure that Canadians continue to benefit from an open and innovative Internet, the Government proposes to review and modernize the Broadcasting Act and Telecommunications Act. In this review, the Government will look to examine issues such as telecommunications and content creation in the digital age, net neutrality and cultural diversity, and how to strengthen the future of Canadian media and Canadian content creation.
    What does it mean? According to Peter Nowak and Professor Michael Geist, lobbying, lobbying and more lobbying by those in the pocket of Canada's carriers and ISPs.

    Nowak concedes that with broadcast and telecom now effectively sharing the same series of tubes it no longer makes sense to separate the legislation governing them. However, a review of this country's enviable net neutrality rules is entirely unnecessary, duplicating work already done by the CRTC.

    Dr. Geist adds to this the looming spectre of ISP and/or Netflix taxes, channeling even more money back into our operators—who are, in case you forgot, also our broadcasters—all while foreign sources fund more English language Canadian television than ever before. Geist also points to the coming renegotiation of NAFTA, and its implications for Canada's digital policy.

    Read more at the links directly below...

    Sources: Michael Geist, Peter Nowak

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    by Published on 03-07-2017 07:35 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Carriers



    This happy fellow is Bonhomme de neige, mascot for the Québec Winter Carnival. What's with the grin? Perhaps it's because the presence of a strong regional carrier is bringing better wireless deals to the province for everyone.

    A recent thread in the Vidéotron forum links to a double data promotion from that Québec-only carrier. And wouldn't you know it, Canada's Big Three have somehow managed to up their data buckets and/or lower their prices to match.

    Exhibit A: Mobile Syrup reported last week that Bell was offering BYOD customers a whopping 10 GB of data for a mere $25/month—plus a $40 or $45 province or nationwide calling plan, but still a much better deal than anything offered here in Ontario.

    Exhibit B: This week iPhone in Canada has news of a new promo from Koodo wherein customers can get No Tab plans with 6 GB of data for $49/month, or 8 GB for $56/month.

    The catch, of course, is that these offers are only officially available in Québec, though it looks like you can snag one of the Koodo plans using this handy guide. Hopefully Vidéotron can sustain such aggressive pricing; they are (I think) the last independent upstart carrier from the 2008 spectrum auction, but have yet to hit the million subscriber mark.

    Sources: iPhone in Canada, Mobile Syrup

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    by Published on 02-23-2017 07:00 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Carriers



    On February 22nd, 1999—that's 18 years ago yesterday—NTT DoCoMo held a press conference to announce the launch of i-mode. It was the world's first mobile Internet just barely, but definitely the world's first successful such service.

    It's European competitor, WAP, didn't have its first functioning site until October of that same year, whereas i-mode launched with the full participation of Japan's major banks—an anecdote I remember reading in a chronicle by i-mode creator Mari Matsunaga. Living in Canada meant that yours truly had to first sample WAP on a Nokia 7190 in the spring of 2001, before his first true taste of i-mode in Tokyo that summer. At the time there was maybe one English-language i-mode site, The Daily Yomiuri, and I distinctly remember the geeky delight of scrolling through its headlines on my rented Japanese keitai, while sipping coffee at the restaurant of my hotel... LIKE A BOSS.

    If you thought an archaic small-screened Internet was Japan's only contribution to mobile technology, you're about to get schooled by Akihabara News. These other innovations also came from the land of the not-too-distant future:

    The first camera phone;
    The first mobile wallet and mobile payment services;
    QR codes;
    eMoji.

    Unfortunately I don't have any sake on hand, so I'll instead raise my morning cup of coffee in a toast to i-mode, and the other wonderful things it enabled.

    Sources: Akihabara News, Wikipedia (1) (2)

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    by Published on 02-17-2017 07:00 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Carriers



    For our American friends it seems like happy days are here again. Today AT&T will join Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon in offering its customers an unlimited data plan. And it gets better: both Sprint and T-Mobile announced this week that they'll be eliminating restrictions on HD video streaming.

    According to DSL Reports, customers on the T-Mobile ONE Plan will have to enable HD streaming with a one-time opt-in via the T-Mobile app. As of today, that option should be available at no additional cost to the user.

    As for Sprint, that carrier previously throttled all streaming music, video and game traffic; for unthrottled services customers had to pay an additional fee. With their new unlimited data plan that's no longer the case.

    There may be some soft data caps with these new plans. Verizon, for example, reserves the right to throttle data after 22 GB "during periods of network congestion". And tethering may be subject to data caps as well. But let's keep things in perspective here. In a neighbouring country where a smartphone user can easily be charged upwards of $100/month for only a few gigabytes of data, we Canadians can only look on in envy.

    Sources: DSL Reports (1) (2), Liliputing

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    by Published on 02-07-2017 07:00 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices,
    3. Carriers



    About a year ago Qualcomm announced its X16 LTE modem, capable of 1 Gbps downloads. And yesterday, some lucky people in Sydney, Australia got to try it out at an event jointly hosted by Qualcomm, Telstra, NETGEAR and Ericsson.

    Designed for but not yet available to smartphones, the launch device for the X16 is actually NETGEAR's Nighthawk M1 Mobile Router, shown above. You're probably most interested in the numbers, so here are the results from a sample speed test at the event:

    930.45 Mbps download
    127.54 Mbps upload
    20 ms latency

    To demonstrate the utility of Gigabit LTE, event organizers had 5 VR headsets streaming 360-degree 4K live video, simultaneously from the same NETGEAR router. The DayDream headsets did have Google Pixels mounted inside, and thus technically only 2K screens. But that's still pretty impressive, considering that no dropped frames were reported from any of the participants.

    I found the story on r/Android, where the first commenter had a rather sobering thought:

    Telcos making their networks faster instead of making data cheaper is going to be 2017's making phones thinner instead of making the battery last longer.
    Way to spoil the party, jerk...



    Source: Qualcomm via reddit

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    by Published on 02-02-2017 07:00 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Tips,
    3. Carriers



    With its pink sand, pastel-coloured houses and dark rum, Bermuda is a dream destination for anyone, really. But for BlackBerry users, perhaps a little more so. You can still buy a 2013 BB7-powered 9720 like the one you see above (wallpaper not included), and if you're visiting the island with an unlocked BlackBerry of your own you can also get a prepaid SIM card with unlimited data at surprisingly reasonable rates.

    I didn't even bother with SIM cards for the two Android phones that the girlfriend and I brought with us for our quick island getaway; Digicel, the country's largest carrier, charges an insane $75 Bermudian Dollars (at par with USD) for a gigabyte of data, what I would consider a comfortable minimum for uploading photos and the like. But the operator also offers another relic of days gone by: BlackBerry Internet Service. So for a mere $15 BMD you can enjoy a full seven days of unlimited email, messaging and mobile Internet.

    The deal also applies to Android-powered BlackBerry phones, which I guess must also have the necessary hooks to connect to BIS.

    I was actually looking into getting a pair of cheap BlackBerries for our trip; Bermuda is close enough to Toronto that we'll probably be visiting again before too long. In case you were interested, Digicel sells their 9720 for a not-entirely outrageous $99 USD. Note, though, that you can currently get the newer Q5 for that same price from Amazon.com.

    For any Bermuda-bound BlackBerry users, all the links you need are directly below!

    Links: BlackBerry 9720, Prepaid Plans, Hamilton Flagship Store

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    by Published on 12-29-2016 07:30 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Commentary and Analysis,
    3. Carriers



    Our year-end retrospective continues with a look back at the notable carrier-related stories of 2016. Note the strong bias towards the Canadian market in what follows, as that's where I happen to live. Sorry, eh?

    CANADA

    Bell Acquires MTS

    Our biggest story of the year had to be Bell's takeover of Manitoba Telecom Services, a deal that was recently approved by the CRTC. This regional carrier was at least partly responsible for one of the most popular Canadian plans on Howard Forums, the $55 (now $48) Manitoba/Saskatchewan (now just MB) plan from Koodo. Some links:

    BCE Buys MTS: Some Notable Quotes

    Winseck and Klass Weigh in on BCE and MTS

    How The Colony Could Learn from The Empire

    Competition

    Wireless plans in Canada continue to mimic gas prices; the guy on one corner continues to raise or lower prices (mostly raise them) to match the guy on the opposite corner. The one bit of good news: WIND—I mean, Freedom Mobile now supports LTE data, albeit on only two devices.

    This is What Wireless Competition Looks Like in Canada

    Egregious New Data Overages Coming to Fido; Other Carriers to Follow?

    Freedom Mobile’s LTE Network Now Live in Toronto and Vancouver

    S**t Guy Laurence Says

    Notable Plans

    Queuing for SIM cards? Only in Canada.

    USA

    Zero-Rated Data

    In studying the U.S. wireless market from afar it seems to me that this was the most contentious issue of the year. I myself am a strong believer in net neutrality; zero-rated services are awesome if you're subscribed to the carrier that offers them, and awful if you're not... which is kind of the point.

    The Dangers of Zero-Rated Data

    Netflix Video Throttled on AT&T and Verizon

    Ars Technica Profiles FCC Chair Tom Wheeler

    Notable Plans

    How to get Unlimited Internet on Sprint for $500/year (tax-deductible)

    If there are any big carrier-related stories that I've missed—particularly from the United States—feel free to add them below!

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    by Published on 11-28-2016 07:00 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Carriers



    Things are happening fast for the Shaw-owned and newly-minted carrier Freedom Mobile. While walking through my neighbourhood this past weekend I couldn't help but notice that all my local WIND stores had switched over to the new branding. And now it seems that their LTE network has gone live in two of Canada's biggest cities.

    Freedom is calling it "traffic-free LTE"—a slogan that actually gets less enticing the more you think about it. First, there's the very limited area where you can actually use it, then there's the single phone sold by FM that supports it (the LG V20) and finally there's the new plan that users have to sign up for to access it.

    In terms of cost it's a fairly good deal—6GB of data per month at $40 for the first year, then $45/month thereafter. But when you add on the tab necessary to subsidize the $999 LG V20 (!) your monthly bill could be as high as $70 after the 12-month promotion expires.

    And now the really bad news: if you browse through the posts in this thread you'll see that at least one user on the LTE plan with a V20 in Toronto is getting data speeds on par with Freedom's current 3G+ infrastructure. If you're considering LTE on Freedom Mobile it might be a good idea to hold off until the New Year when the network gets more robust. And hopefully faster.

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    by Published on 11-21-2016 07:00 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Carriers
    Article Preview



    What we're looking at here is a photo tweeted on Saturday afternoon from Vancouver—where folks are lining up to buy SIM cards from TELUS flanker brand Public Mobile. Why? Because that carrier ran a fall promotion which expired at midnight last night, and to ensure as many sign-ups as possible they were physically handing out SIMs in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver.

    Here are the details of that plan, from its announcement thread here on the forums:


    Quote Originally Posted by goflamesgo View Post
    Amazing deal from Public Mobile until November 20th. Cheapest 4GB plan yet on a major network with LTE and without Chatr throttling or Wind coverage issues.

    90 Day Plan
    Unlimited Province Wide Calling
    Unlimited Global Text / MMS
    12GB of Data
    $120 every 90 Days

    There's also a $2 autopay credit per month, making this as low as $38 per month.
    That's right, 4GB/month for $38. For Canada that's an exceptionally good deal.

    It's not perfect, mind you. There is no nationwide calling, and though there are no data overage charges per se (it's a prepaid plan), additional data is a not-so reasonable $15 for 500MB. On the other hand, my last four cell phone bills show an average data usage of under 3GB, so I'd reckon that 4GB/month is a an acceptably big bucket for a lot of people. ...
    by Published on 09-30-2016 07:00 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Tips,
    3. Carriers
    Article Preview



    I found an interesting deal on mobile hotspot Internet service from Sprint, courtesy of author and Internet freedom fighter Cory Doctorow.

    The Calyx Institute is a registered nonprofit ISP—the first ISP, in fact, to ever get a Patriot Act warrant unsealed. They're able to offer mobile Internet service through Sprint thanks to a condition of that company's 2013 acquisition of Clearwire. There was a stipulation in that deal that nonprofits get access to the network at very low prices.

    You're technically paying for a membership, not the Internet service itself. But the Internet service is a pretty sweet perk. I'll let Cory explain:

    Calyx uses the wireless data service as a membership premium to help pay for their crypto and privacy supporting activities: to pay for multiple gigabit connections, data center space, etc.. to offer a whole array of free security and privacy services to the public including our LEAP based VPN, their encrypted instant messaging service, and their many Tor exit nodes.

    The upshot? For $500, Calyx will send you a little wifi hotspot with a Sprint SIM in it that comes with a year's worth of unlimited, anonymous, unshaped, unfiltered 4G/LTE bandwidth on Sprint's network. Unlimited as in, I downloaded 60GB with mine and it didn't break a sweat.

    And it's a tax-deductible charitable donation.
    Calyx isn't supposed to call their service unlimited; they refer to it as 30GB+. The thing is, after 30GB in transfers nothing changes; the user isn't throttled in any way and there are no overage charges whatsoever. Even better, the cost of service drops to $400 after the first year, since you'll already have the hotspot required to access the network.

    Carrying around an extra piece of gear can be a burden, but has advantages as well. For example, it's generally much safer to connect your laptop to your own hotspot than to someone else's WiFi network. You'll also be the instant life of the party for your cheapskate friends who have little or no data of their own. ...
    by Published on 08-18-2016 10:11 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. News,
    3. Carriers

    This morning T-Mobile held a conference call to announce their new T-Mobile ONE plans.



    Press release here: https://newsroom.t-mobile.com/news-a...data-plans.htm

    Discuss in the forums here: http://www.howardforums.com/showthre...7-Uncarrier-12
    by Published on 06-29-2016 06:50 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Carriers
    Article Preview



    $5 for 100MB.

    That would be a great deal for mobile data if it were 2003 and we were all browsing text-only WAP pages on our GPRS-connected dumb phones. Unfortunately, it's 2016 and $5/100MB is the new data overage rate in the works from Fido.

    Mobile Syrup reported yesterday that the Rogers sub-brand is revamping their monthly plans. Perhaps lost in the all details is this new overage rate, which amounts to an astonishing $50 per gigabyte. Their current standard is $5 per 250MB, or $20/GB. Not three years ago you'd be dinged a mere $10 for an extra gigabyte of data.

    It would certainly be a challenge to stay within the 100MB data allotment that Fido still offers one at least one plan, unless you're the type of user who doesn't really use data at all, and instead relies on the very real security risk inherent in public WiFi hotspots.

    It's a pretty safe bet that in short order Canada's other national carriers will match the new overage rate set by Fido; they're like neighbouring gas stations that way. ...
    by Published on 05-31-2016 06:35 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Commentary and Analysis,
    3. Carriers
    Article Preview



    Last Thursday Professor Dwayne Winseck and Ben Klass—known on Howard Forums as Mediamorphis and benzito respectively—released a 46-page report assessing Bell Canada Enterprises' proposed bid to acquire Manitoba Telecommunications Services.

    They did so through the Canadian Media Concentration Research Project. According to its own website: "The CMCR project offers an independent academic, empirical and data-driven analysis of a deceptively simple yet profoundly important question: have telecom, media and Internet markets become more concentrated over time, or less?"

    Read on for a copy/paste of the CMCRP's press release, plus a bonus video from the floor of the Manitoba Legislature. ...
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