When Does Unlimited Mean Unlimited?

by alec on February 19, 2006

I am sitting looking at $72 of "overage" on my Rogers Unlimited Data plan.  That’s correct.  Overage on an unlimited plan.  I am a little confused.  I thought unlimited mean un-limited.  Just to make sure that I understood the term correctly, I went and checked my dictionary.  According to Houghton Mifflin:

un·lim·it·ed   Audio pronunciation of ( P )  Pronunciation Key  (n-lm-td)

  1. Having no restrictions or controls: an unlimited travel ticket.
  2. Having or seeming to have no boundaries; infinite: an unlimited horizon.
  3. Without qualification or exception; absolute: unlimited self-confidence.

Ah… it’s an American dictionary.  Perhaps there is a uniquely Canadian meaning to unlimited. Perhaps it’s one of those quirks of idiom — like the fact that in the US "tabling" a document means putting it aside for future consideration, whereas in Canada it means to offer a document for consideration right now.  Quickly turning away from the modern convenience of the internet, I dust off my venerable Gage Canadian Dictionary, and look up the term.

un·lim·it·ed adj. 1 without limits; boundless 2 not restricted.

Nope.  It seems that the Canadian definition of unlimited is, in fact, the same as the US definition. Ah! Perhaps this is the source of my confusion. Rogers is using the special word unlimited***, which is apparently a new word that looks just like unlimited but means something different from the actual word unlimited.  

Yup, checking the weasel type at the bottom of the page reveals the following caveat.

***Rogers Wireless reserves the right to limit usage and charge $7 per additional MB for excessive usage over 25 MB of data per month.

So Rogers lawyers have redefined the word unlimited to mean 100% completely the opposite of unlimited.  It’s a bit like a Monty Python, sketch, isn’t it?

The more I think about this, the more steamed I get. 

Oh yes, I know, we’re all supposed to read the fine print on every contract we agree to, but who really reads all those terms on the click through EULAs anymore?  And in the rush of the moment to sign up for a cell phone plan, who reads the back side of the canary copy of the contract with its endless chicken tracks of lawyer type?  Rogers promised me an unlimited plan, and then changed the definition of the common english word unlimited to mean the exact opposite.   It’s positively python-esque in its hubris. 

Second, it’s entirely arbitrary who they will and will not charge.  Their weaselly redefinition of unlimited doesn’t say "Limited to $25 MB.  Usage in excess will charged at $7 per additional MB."  It says "Rogers reserves the right to charge who we feel like if we decide your usage is excessive."

I am sure this is just the beginning too.  I have a brand new Rogers Blackberry 8700r.  With its high speed wireless access, you can surf websites to your heart’s content.  And with its new browser, it’s a fabulous way to view those websites. Graphics et al all display much better than they did on my 7290.  Plus, the CD that comes with the 8700r has modem drivers on it so you can plug your Blackberry into your PC and use it for data communications — which is, in fact, what I did last week transferring some 20 odd megabytes of data while on a train trip between Ottawa and Toronto. I am sure I will be seeing a bill for hundreds of dollars for that trip.

Rogers used to be an innovator in the Canadian market.  This kind of behaviour smacks of clueless, and deliberately deceitful, lawyers and marketing people trying to pull a fast one on customers.  Rogers needs to fix my bill, and then offer a proper unlimited data plan — one that recognizes the reality of the advanced data devices they’re pushing in the marketplace.

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