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Big telcos hike internet prices amid soaring demand, revenues

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You can run but you can’t hide from internet price hikes. That’s what Sean Barry in Powell River, B.C., learned after leaving his provider, Shaw, following a couple of price increases.

He switched to competitor Telus in September only to discover that the cost of his current Telus internet plan is also going up — by $5 a month.

“I am choked over the increase so soon,” said the 71-year-old Barry, who lives on a fixed income.

“Every year it just goes up and up and up.”

Telus, Bell and Shaw are all raising prices on select internet plans over the next few months. The hikes come on the heels of internet price increases by Telus, Shaw, Bell and Rogers in 2018.

Sean Barry, of Powell River B.C., says he is on a fixed income and switched providers after Shaw increased its prices. He was unhappy to learn that his new provider, Telus, is hiking his bill by $5 a month. (Submitted by Sean Barry)

Meanwhile, Canadians are living more of their lives online and signing up in record numbers for internet service, driving up revenues for providers. 

“They can do whatever they want; it’s big business,” said Barry. “We’ve just got to suck it up.”

Price hike roundup

Beginning on Feb. 25, Telus will hike rates on internet plans by $2 to $5 a month.

On Feb. 1, Bell will raise internet prices by $5 a month for Bell Aliant customers in Atlantic Canada. In Ontario and Quebec, the telco is hiking various internet plans by up to $6 a month as of March 1.

“I laughed, because I pretty much knew it was coming,” said Christopher Provias, of Welland, Ont., after learning that he’s facing a $5 monthly increase on his Bell internet bill.

“It’s pretty much like clockwork.”

On April 1, Shaw also plans to raise rates on select internet plans. The telco declined to say by how much prices are going up.

Why raise prices?

In 2017, home internet was the fastest-growing sector of all telecommunications services.

According to the latest Communications Monitoring Report by the CRTC, Canada’s telecom regulator, 86 per cent of Canadian households subscribed to home internet service in 2017, up almost four per cent from 2016.

Canadians are also demanding faster internet speeds with more data — average monthly data use for high-speed users jumped by a whopping 30 per cent in 2017 compared to 2016.

Bell, Telus and Shaw say they have to raise rates to continually improve their networks to accommodate growing demand.

Bell said customers’ internet usage has increased by more than 500 per cent over the past five years.

“Our costs to meet that demand and provide customers with the best experience possible also continue to rise,” said spokesperson Nathan Gibson in an email.

Total Canadian internet service revenues in 2017 (Communications Monitoring Report 2018/CRTC)

Industry analyst Dwayne Winseck acknowledges that the big telcos are investing significant amounts in their networks. But he says that’s not the only reason customers face higher internet bills. 

“These price increases are at least as much, if not more, about protecting very high operating profits,” says Winseck, a professor at Carleton University’s School of Journalism and Communication.

According to the CRTC report, residential internet service revenues, including applications, equipment and other related services, totalled $9.1 billion in 2017 — an 8.8 per cent increase over 2016.

‘Makes me so mad’

In a notice sent to customers facing price hikes, Bell said it invested $4 billion in its infrastructure last year. 

But that’s cold comfort for Dennis Fitt, of Truro, N.S., who’s facing a monthly increase of $9 come February for his bundled internet, phone and TV service with Bell.

“Their profits aren’t enough to cover the infastructure — this $4 billion that I have to pay for now?” said Fitt, whose family of six relies on internet for both their TV and phone service. 

“It just makes me so mad.”

Because the internet has become so important in Canadians’ lives, Fitt believes the CRTC should do something to ensure prices don’t get out of control.

“The CRTC should call [the internet] a necessity, and at that point they should be able to regulate it a lot more than they do now.”

The telecom regulator is currently exploring an internet code of conduct to address a growing number of complaints from Canadians about their internet service.

86% of Canadian households subscribed to home internet service in 2017, up almost four per cent compared to the previous year. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)

While there’s no mention of price regulation, the CRTC says the code would include measures to make it easier for consumers to switch providers to take advantage of competitive offers.

For Canadians planning to make a switch, there are a growing number of independent internet providers such as TekSavvy, Distributel and Start that offer competitive rates. 

In 2017, only 13 per cent of Canadian internet subscribers were signed up with an independent, according to the CRTC report.

Reasons for the modest uptake include the fact that many are unaware of Canada’s smaller providers or are fearful of switching to a lesser-known company

Others believe they’re better off bundling their internet with other services at a discount with one of the major telcos. 

Barry in Powell River says because he has a promotional deal with Telus, if he cancelled his internet, he’d likely face a bigger bill for his phone and TV service with the company

“They’ve got you coming and going,” he said. 

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Top 5 Analytics Trends That Are Shaping The Future

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Digital transformation is increasingly becoming the focus for many CIOs around the world today—with analytics playing a fundamental role in driving the future of the digital economy.

While data is important to every business, it is necessary for businesses to have a firm grip on data analytics to allow them transform raw pieces of data into important insights. However, unlike the current trends in business intelligence—which is centred around data visualization—the future of data analytics would encompass a more contextual experience.

“The known data analytics development cycle is described in stages: from descriptive (what happened) to diagnostic (why did it happen), to discovery (what can we learn from it), to predictive (what is likely to happen), and, finally, to prescriptive analytics (what action is the best to take),” said Maurice op het Veld is a partner at KPMG Advisory in a report.

“Another way of looking at this is that data analytics initially “supported” the decision-making process but is now enabling “better” decisions than we can make on our own.”

Here are some of the current trends that arealready shaping the future of data analytics in individuals and businesses.

  1. Growth in mobile devices

With the number of mobile devices expanding to include watches, digital personal assistants, smartphones, smart glasses, in-car displays, to even video gaming systems, the final consumption plays a key role on the level of impact analytics can deliver.

Previously, most information consumers accessed were on a computer with sufficient room to view tables, charts and graphs filled with data, now, most consumers require information delivered in a format well optimized for whatever device they are currently viewing it on.

Therefore, the content must be personalized to fit the features of the user’s device and not just the user alone.

  1. Continuous Analytics

More and more businesses are relying on the Internet of Things (IoT) and their respective streaming data—which in turn shortens the time it takes to capture, analyze and react to the information gathered. Therefore, while analytics programspreviously were termed successful when results were delivered within days or weeks of processing, the future of analytics is bound to drastically reduce this benchmark to hours, minutes, seconds—and even milliseconds.

“All devices will be connected and exchange data within the “Internet of Things” and deliver enormous sets of data. Sensor data like location, weather, health, error messages, machine data, etc. will enable diagnostic and predictive analytics capabilities,” noted Maurice.

“We will be able to predict when machines will break down and plan maintenance repairs before it happens. Not only will this be cheaper, as you do not have to exchange supplies when it is not yet needed, but you can also increase uptime.”

  1. Augmented Data Preparation

During the process of data preparation, machine learning automation will begin to augment data profiling and data quality, enrichment, modelling, cataloguing and metadata development.

Newer techniques would include supervised, unsupervised and reinforcement learning which is bound to enhance the entire data preparation process. In contrast to previous processes—which depended on rule-based approach to data transformation—this current trend would involve advanced machine learning processes that would evolve based on recent data to become more precise at responding to changes in data.

  1. Augmented Data Discovery

Combined with the advancement in data preparation, a lot of these newer algorithms now allow information consumers to visualize and obtain relevant information within the data with more ease. Enhancements such as automatically revealing clusters, links, exceptions, correlation and predictions with pieces of data, eliminate the need for end users to build data models or write algorithms themselves.

This new form of augmented data discovery will lead to an increase in the number of citizen data scientist—which include information users who, with the aid of augmented assistance can now identify and respond to various patterns in data faster and a more distributed model.

  1. AugmentedData Science

It is important to note that the rise of citizen data scientist will not in any way eliminate the need for a data scientist who gathers and analyze data to discover profitable opportunities for the growth of a business. However, as these data scientists give room for citizen data scientists to perform the easier tasks, their overall analysis becomes more challenging and equally valuable to the business.

As time goes by, machine learning would be applied in other areas such as feature and model selection. This would free up some of the tasks performed by data scientist and allow them focus on the most important part of their job, which is to identify specific patterns in the data that can potentially transform business operations and ultimately increase revenue.

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Waterloo drone-maker Aeryon Labs bought by U.S. company for $265M

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Waterloo’s Aeryon Labs has been bought by Oregon-based FLIR Systems Inc. for $256 million, or $200 million US.

The acquisition was announced Monday. 

Dave Kroetsch, co-founder and chief technology officer of Aeryon Labs, says not much will change in the foreseeable future.

“The Waterloo operations of Aeryon Labs will actually continue as they did yesterday with manufacturing, engineering and all the functions staying intact in Waterloo and ultimately, we see growing,” he said.

“The business here is very valuable to FLIR and our ability to sell internationally is a key piece of keeping these components of the business here in Canada.”

Aeroyn Labs builds high-performance drones that are sold to a variety of customers including military, police services and commercial businesses. The drones can provide high-resolution images for surveillance and reconnaissance.

The drones already include cameras and thermal technology from FLIR. Jim Cannon, president and CEO of FLIR Systems, said acquiring Aeryon Labs is part of the company’s strategy to move beyond sensors “to the development of complete solutions that save lives and livelihoods.”

‘A piece of a bigger solution’

Kroetsch said this is a good way for the company to grow into something bigger.

“We see the business evolving in much the direction our business has been headed over the last couple of years. And that’s moving beyond the drone as a product in and of itself as a drone as a piece of a bigger solution,” he said.

For example, FLIR bought a drone company that builds smaller drones that look like little helicopters.

“We can imagine integrating those with our drones, perhaps having ours carry their drones and drop them off,” he said.

FLIR also does border security systems, which Kroetsch says could use the drones to allow border agents to look over a hill where there have been issues.

“We see the opportunity there as something that we never could have done on our own but being involved with and part of a larger company that’s already providing these solutions today gives us access not only to these great applications, but also to some fantastic technologies,” he said.

Aeryon Labs has done a lot of work during emergency disasters, including in Philippines after Typhoon Hagupit in 2014, Ecuador after an earthquake in 2016 and the Fort McMurray wildfire in 2016.

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Inuvik infrastructure may not be ready for climate change, says study

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The Arctic is expected to get warmer and wetter by the end of this century and new research says that could mean trouble for infrastructure in Inuvik.

The study from Global Water Futures looked at how climate change could impact Havipak Creek — which crosses the Dempster Highway in Inuvik, N.W.T. — and it predicts some major water changes.

“They were quite distressing,” John Pomeroy, director of Global Water Futures and the study’s lead author, said of the findings.

Researchers used a climate model and a hydrological model to predict future weather and climate patterns in the region. They also looked at data gathered from 1960 to the present. 

If greenhouse gas emissions continue at their current rate — which Pomeroy said they are on track to do — the study projects the region will be 6.1 C warmer by 2099 and precipitation, particularly rain, will increase by almost 40 per cent.

The study also found that the spring flood will be earlier and twice as large, and the permafrost will thaw an additional 25 centimetres. While the soil is expected to be wetter early in the summer, the study said it will be drier in late summer, meaning a higher risk of wildfires.

John Pomeroy is the director of Global Water Futures. (Erin Collins/CBC)

“The model’s painting kind of a different world than we’re living in right now for the Mackenzie Delta region,” Pomeroy said.

He noted these changes are not only expected for Havipak Creek, but also for “many, many creeks along the northern part of the Dempster [Highway].”

Pomeroy said the deeper permafrost thaw and a bigger spring flood could pose challenges for buildings, roads, culverts and crossings in the area that were designed with the 20th century climate in mind.

He said the projected growth of the snowpack and the spring flood are “of grave concern because that’s what washes out the Dempster [Highway] and damages infrastructure in the area.”

Culverts and bridges may have to be adjusted to allow room for greater stream flows, Pomeroy said. And building foundations that are dependent upon the ground staying frozen will have to be reinforced or redesigned.

Pomeroy said the ultimate solution is for humans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“This study is the future we’re heading for, but it’s not the future we necessarily have if we can find a way to reduce those gases,” he said.  

“It’d be far smarter to get those emissions under control than to pay the terrible expenses for infrastructure and endangered safety of humans and destroyed ecosystems.”

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