Rogers Replies to my LPIF Fee Complaint

The Local Programming Improvement Fund (LPIF) fee was the last straw for me. I not only downgraded my cable plan, I also wrote a complaint to Rogers, the cable company. And then for good measure, I blogged my complaint. I never expected Rogers to reply, never mind within a couple of hours. But the Advisor to the Office of the President not only called me, he e-mailed me just to ensure I'd call him back ASAP!

The first thing Mat told me was that I wasn't alone in my complaint. I had wondered that when Rogers customer service this morning so readily downgraded my cable plan when I called and didn't ask the usual "will there be anything else" question, probably wanting to get off the phone before they got an earful. Also the lineup at the cable counter was looonnnngggg. Many were there exchanging cable boxes or just cancelling their cable altogether. A rather unusual sight.

I discovered during my phone call with Mat that Rogers is gathering all the complaints together to take them to the fall CRTC meeting on this issue. So there was method in Rogers madness for passing on the LPIF fee: they wanted (1) to be consistent in passing on every CRTC-regulated fee to the customer despite fact CRTC said they weren't to do that, and (2) to prove to the CRTC that the public is against this local programming fund.

The second reason is a bit of sleight of hand as what customers are really objecting to is another fee hike; whether they approve or disapprove of the LFIP is a different matter, something I'll blog on later. However, Rogers and Bell are working together to kill the LPIF. They don't like it. Period.

Rogers asserts that if they take responsibility for the fee -- that is, don't pass it on to us -- then they will either have to forego enhancements of cable services, something they do annually, or put off converting non-digital areas to digital. I have to wonder how well their business is run if they cannot continue with these activities, despite the LPIF fee, when they consistently raise rates every year, beyond the level of inflation, especially this past year.

Basically, Rogers finds it suspect that suddenly, this past year, networks, led by CTV (gag) are crying poor and needing such a fund to help them out. I agree with them on that. I asked Mat about Rogers-owned Citytv. Apparently as a community cable channel, Rogers 10 is not eligible for the fund. He didn't answer me about Citytv. But I would guess that even if Citytv would benefit, it obviously isn't enough to make a difference to Rogers' bottom line.

Since I had him on the line, I also complained about Torontonians paying more for basic cable than people outside the city. I didn't get much traction on that. And I complained that I was paying for channels I didn't want so as to get the channels I did want because of channel bundling. On that front, he said that CRTC and Rogers are working on a plan to customize cable channel selection. I had read somewhere on the Internet that there's talk of à la carte coming to cable TV in 2011 when Canada turns all digital (like the US did this year, which got me to convert and discover HDTV over the air), and this information seems to confirm that. Lastly, I asked about carriage fees for the networks like CTV, CBC, Global, and Citytv. So far there is no talk of charging customers for those.

We also digressed into a conversation about CTV. Rather reminded me of that old adage, the enemy of my enemy is my friend. More on that later.


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