No one @Home

At long last, broadband users across Canada have finally found a home away from @Home.

Thursday will mark the official end of an the Rogers@Home era, which might be more properly called Trouble@Home. That’s when Rogers Communications Inc. finally follows the lead of Cogeco Cable and Shaw Communications Inc. in ditching @Home as the connection supplier of its cable Internet service and does the job itself. I’m not sure how many ITBusiness.ca Update subscribers have a Rogers @Home account, but hopefully they will receive the newsletter without any difficulties. Normally this kind of transition shouldn’t cause a lot of concerns, but we’re talking about Rogers, which has turned its foray into the ISP market into an ongoing public relations fiasco.

There is an eerie sense of timing in all this as the Rogers@Home Users Group (RHUG) officially changed its name and URL to the Residential Broadband Users Association (RBUA) just last Friday. This has traditionally been one of the best organizations of its kind, fighting the good fight on behalf of its members and supplying its Web site with up-to-date news links about the service. The best update came just a few weeks ago, when Chris Weisdorf, the group’s president, predicted the changeover to @Rogers.com which we will see on Thursday and advised members on how to protect themselves.

“Rogers will need to renumerate and reallocate the IP addresses of every single one of their subscribers,” he wrote, advising members to choose the dynamic capabilities of Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol, or DHCP, as a precautionary measure.

At least someone’s thinking on their feet. Rogers could only wish for an equivalent level of customer service, judging from the many news reports that have profiled the company’s struggle to keep the ship running. One of the best (and most high-profile) tirades came from Global News anchor Peter Kent, who whined to the National Post in January that “(Rogers’) evasiveness and denials . . . are infuriating,” after a faulty router left some Rogers subscribers offline for more than two days.

It seems like almost everyone has a tale of unreturned phone calls, or being put on hold by technical support for more than an hour. The company could be the “before” picture in an ad for better customer relationship management, but some customers weren’t willing to wait for a solution. Earlier this year a group of seething Rogers@Home users launched a class-action lawsuit against the company that has yet to be resolved. In the meantime, Rogers has said it would start building its own high-speed network, the fruits of which we will be tasting this week.

There was always a strange disparity between the actual provisioning of the Rogers service versus the company’s marketing of it. Who hasn’t been hailed by someone at a Rogers@Home booth at the mall, heard the radio ads, seen the TV commercials? It was a well-organized strategy that worked too well — the company has had about 422,000 subscribers, apparently more than it was prepared to handle.

Rogers can be forgiven for sticking by @Home when it looked as though the company had a strong future in this emerging market. As I mentioned in an earlier editorial, many people were taken in by the now-bankrupt operation. With this switchover, however, Rogers is being handed a golden opportunity to redeem its credibility. Its decision to maintain a relationship with @Home for high-speed connections doesn’t bode well in this direction. It is clearly time to cut the cord. Nobody says it’s easy, but everyone has to leave home some day.

sschick@plesman.com

Share on LinkedIn Share with Google+