Canadian indie ISP owner recounts how corrupt monopoly drove her out of business

Here's a sad and infuriating video from Cindy Quigley, founder of the now-defunct independent Canadian ISP OnCall. OnCall got its services via Telus, a regulated monopoly carrier, which drove them out of business with fraudulent charges and perjured testimony before an arbitrator and the regulator -- all of which came to light after the ISP went bust and lost the power to do anything about it.

The On Call Story - Truth and Justice Denied


  1. Unfortunately the Canadian government just doesn’t care. It’s been the case for decades since Bell and other companies have the CRTC and the government in their pockets. We have some of the most expensive internet and cell service in the world.

  2. For those who aren’t Canadian, here’s a bit of background.

    Most of Canada’s major Telcos were Crown Corporation, (Government Not-For-Profit Monopolies). The monopoly issue was pretty obvious, so the large corporations are required to resell their pipes are regulated rates to allow competition to pop-up.

    As you might imagine, the big telcos have been fighting this tooth and nail, for the obvious reason of wanting to maintain their monopolies. What this means is that they need HEAVY supervision from regulators.

    Unfortunately, the CRTC that is supposed to be regulating them, oftentimes just takes their word for it.

  3. that’s a shocking failure of regulation. or to be more specific, of not knowing what they were regulating until they got the FOI request.

  4. Yeiks, is the whole of NA going fascist?!

    btw, she seems to slip up and start referring to Telus by name in the middle even tho the last bit makes it sound as she has been talking about a unnamed corporation all along.

  5. I can sympathize with you. I have seen first hand that these Telco’s will do whatever they can to destroy businesses that rely on their services if they offer any sort of competition to them. I too ran a small ISP in the U.S. which was driven out of business by a Monopoly Telco named Frontier Communications. They not only illegally overcharged for regulated services, but they would have repeated “failures” on our circuits that were suddenly “programmed wrong” after years of being setup and down times way above a typical customer that was not in competition with them. Of course they usually happened during holidays to infuriate our customers. The problem here is no agency wants to uphold the law and just wants to push the issue away from them. The complaints bounced between the FCC and PSC saying its the “other” regulatory commission in charge or controlling the monopoly. Good Luck, I hope you can find someway of getting justice to prevail over bribery.

  6. Big business is big business no matter where you live.

    Making the case that Telus perjured itself would go a long way to undo the damage caused by the previous rulings. At the very least, it would likely get Telus on the record to admitting they were “in error” even if full-fledged intent to mislead can’t be proven.

  7. Who would we call or give money to in order to bring this to light? These things need some sort of call to action. Is there a Canadian EFF?

  8. This is infuriating. Could we try and raise money for her to sue the government? I mean, ultimately the failure was on their part. They didn’t bother looking in to it and simply took the word of Telus at face value.

    I thought Telus was a good company… I’m slowly accepting that any large company will end up being evil. They become a profit at all cost entity bent on the destruction of anything that threatens them in the slightest.

    How can we help? What can we do about this?

  9. The statutory telecom monopolies of Canada are the fraternal twin of the “Free Market” ones in the US.
    The FCC conveniently sidestepped this miscarriage of justice by ensuring that independent ISPs in the US have *no* right to fair, regulated access to the major telecoms’ backbone (funded by taxpayers and/or the previously existing telecom monopolies).

    Phew. Crisis of independent ISPs being illegally crushed by US oligopolies: averted!

  10. Monopolies know how to cover their ass. and all diff. companies/people in political roles know how to get rid of small business. Im sorry this happened, but until we can strap executives and politicians to lie detectors this will continue to happen. Everyone in positions of power everywhere lie…….

  11. I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore! And I’m not even Canadian.

    Not everyone in government is evil or incompetent, yet you see evil corporations allowed to get away with more and more these days.

    They bring a curse onto themselves. May those responsible get what they deserve.

  12. So, dumb question-

    Her business may be gone, but she can still sue for damages right? I mean, this seems pretty cut & dried. This document is the proof they’ve lied in the press and perjured themselves in court, with the ultimate result of bankrupting her company. She should be able to sue them for the lost value of the company, its lost revenue since, her previous legal costs and the damages to her reputation too..


    1. Her business may be gone, but she can still sue for damages right?

      I doubt it. At 4:18 she says she has appealed to the Supreme Court, the highest in the land, and at 4:42 she states that the court accepted Telus’ side of the story, based on the authority of the arbitrator. She had her expert opinion that the services were regulated, but not the CRTC document obtained under the access to information act. It looks like she should have won, but she didn’t make her case. IANAL, but I’d say the matter is legally settled.

  13. Be ready to see a lot more of this kind of stuff in the US. This is what happens when you allow big companies buy off politicians. Now after Citizens United and the most recent court case saying that corporations can give directly to politicians, only those with the most money will be worth any lawmaker’s time.

    We’ve already got the propaganda machine going, we’re militarizing our country with things like the PATRIOT Act and PROTECT IP, we’ve got nationalist and class warfare going… We’re on the fast track to fascism.

    1. Mr. Pearce, this has been my ISP for 9 years now.
      You got the whole story: Telus lied to the court to get the judgment they wanted.
      I expect the business owners will get a reasonable settlement now they have the proof, but we all lose when good, small, businesses are forced out by monopolies eager to grub up every last bit of territory.

  14. It will be interesting if Boing Boing does a followup on this story and monitor if anything is ever done about this at all.

  15. Dear OnCall,

    Your experience is not unusual, for Canada has been assaulted
    by a foreign threat which has destroyed our government and our
    justice system and the rule of law in Canada.

    Canada has become a lawless state under the fraudulent Harper
    foreign military dictatorship, and since The Regime Change on
    Canada in 2006, the law in Canada has been a matter of convenience
    for those breaking it.

    In your case, your business was destroyed, and in my own, three
    members of my family were murdered, and I myself remain under
    threat of covert murder to protect those perpetuating the
    identified foreign military threat which has resulted in
    trickle-down lawlessness in Canada since 2006.

    You are lucky, according to my observations, and I suggest that
    you should have no illusions nor expectation for justice in your
    case, for our justices themselves are endangered if they uphold
    the laws and do justice in the war America declared upon Canada
    (with Harper) in February of 2005, in the ongoing covert international
    war of terror, which continues, and which has
    imminently destroyed America.

    My advice to you is to recognize that Canada has been overtaken
    by organized crime, in the PMO, and to accept the harm done to
    you and your business until our military returns to Canada’s
    side in Harper’s war with America upon Canada’s sovereignty
    and the rule of law in Canada, and on election security which
    has been breeched by fraud 3 times in the past 5 years of
    ongoing covert war.

    Be thankful that none of your family members have been murdered
    to silence you, as has been attempted against myself while I have
    been serving in Canada’s strategic defense initiative of 2005,
    after catching the U.S. Military targeting Canada’s last legally
    elected Prime Minister in the course of my federal public service.

    You are not alone in suffering great and tragic losses as a result
    of the threat which is threating our justices and all authorities
    and all law abiding Canadians.

    Despite what is shown on television, we are in a time of
    international covert war of aggressions, and the war of terror
    continues relentlessly towards it’s stark conclusion.

    1. If your being sincere here, sounds like you should go to the foreign press with this.

      1. Cowicide wrote: “If your being sincere here, sounds like you should go to the foreign press with this.”

        Stark replied: Yes. I am being sincere. We are still in the process in Canada of attending to due process of law
        to resolve the matter, which is not resolved by simply going to the press, were it so easy.

        It’s a very serious situation, and while Harper has been convicted in a secret judicial Crown inquiry,
        the election assault which just transpired has complicated re-securing the country by the
        coalition which was ruled to be deployed before any new elections. More to come.

  16. This the type of thing that has been happening in Canada more and more frequently. Add events such as the G20 clearly showing that YES, we have become a fascist state, at the mercy of corporations and the industrial & military complex. Money is being syphoned from traditional diplomacy (Foreign affairs), which MADE Canada’s reputation WORLDWIDE and re-invested in the military, a fascist police force and subsidies to corporations.

    CANADA has become the B*TCH of corporations despite being a country rich in natural resources able to make its own rule of law and give the people absolute priority.

    Yet what did CANADIANS do when they had the chance to send Harper and his minority government back to his fascist cave a month ago? They re-elected him with a MAJORITY!!!! Thanks to the media’s support and its constant brainwashing, people have become addicted to the little carrot of slightly lower taxes, higher corporate profits at the expense of our environment and everything we stand for and constant lying about other leaders.

    One gets what they deserve, but unfortunately in this day & age, media and the people who control it have become so good at conveying any message they want that we are now living in a nation of Zombies, brainwashed by 5 hours per day of TV. What else would you expect???

  17. The CRTC is a big part of the problem here. Appeals to them are (notoriously) ignored or dealt with in favor of the Telcos.

    Not being familiar with the history of this case, it is impossible to comment specifically. But there is a long history of (ironic pun intended) “disconnect” between the CRTC and small businesses or the average Joe.

    Curiously, Harper (who is vilified in much of this) has tried to bring them to task. But the whole thing is a mess of confused legality, authority and most Canadians simply don’t have a hope of navigating the mess.

    If this woman, with an expert witness and legal support can’t make a go of it, imagine how much help some student or elderly person gets…

    Of course, those cases don’t get publicized.

    1. Is there any chance of getting this anywhere as an actual story, not just a long video? I gave up watching after less than a minute. I can’t understand a word of what she’s saying.

  18. CANADA has become the B*TCH of corporations despite being a country … able to make its own rule of law and give the people absolute priority.

    Hey, you could be talking about the US of A here…

    At least in Canada (AFAIK) the police can’t barge into someone’s home simply because they “smelled marijuana and heard evidence being destroyed”. I fear things are going to get ugly for every stripe of civil activism here. Even the Salvation Army had better watch out (hey, who knows what those bell-ringers we see every Christmas are *really* up to!).

  19. Just thought I’d look up the CRTC docs, it looks like the Youtube video may be misleading.

    Here is the CRTC decision she references:

    This doesn’t say that the services are unregulated:

    “On Call and TCC have been engaged in a billing dispute since 1998. On 14 February 2008, they signed a letter agreement (the agreement) in an attempt to resolve this dispute. However, on 31 July 2009, TCC issued to On Call a notice of its intention to terminate services provisioned to On Call (the notice of termination) unless specified sums were paid into a trust fund contemplated by the agreement (the trust fund).”

    “On Call submitted that it signed the agreement under threat by TCC to terminate its services. On Call added that the agreement does not comply with the regulatory requirements. For example, On Call argued that the amount of money held in trust is more than TCC could require as a deposit.
    The Commission considers that the agreement is a private, commercial agreement concluded between two sophisticated business entities in an effort to resolve their dispute. The Commission notes that the arbitrator ruled (i) that there is a valid arbitration clause in the agreement and (ii) that the arbitrator has jurisdiction to hear the dispute. The Commission also notes that the validity of the agreement, including the arbitration proceeding, is before the British Columbia Supreme Court.

    In the circumstances, the Commission considers that since the parties agreed to the terms of the agreement, they should abide by those terms. Further, the Commission considers that the money held in the trust fund is not a deposit for future services, but a security for TCC against past amounts disputed by On Call based on the terms of the agreement.
    The Commission considers that as long as On Call abides by the terms of the agreement or amended terms agreed upon by both parties, it is not a credit risk, since undisputed amounts would be paid and the remaining money held in the trust fund would be a security for TCC against amounts disputed by On Call.
    Accordingly, the Commission concludes that TCC cannot require On Call to provide a deposit.”

    Anyway, there’s more in there. All that to say that the purported CRTC letter which acknowledges that certain wholesale ADSL access services are regulated doesn’t seem to affect the decision at all, unlike the claimed “gotcha!” in the video.

    It looks to me (although I haven’t read all of the docs) like this is a protracted billing dispute between TELUS and OnCall where OnCall was in arrears (necessitating the settlement agreement/trust fund) and TELUS wished to jump the gun and terminate the service which was incurring bad debt. I don’t know if the video is deliberately misleading, it may just be that she has had bad advice over the course of this dispute.

  20. Ms. Quigley has got herself into a spectacular mess with other companies as well. Telus just happens to be the biggest enemy she’s made. I normally side with smaller companies in cases like this, but unfortunately for her, as I’ve dealt with her and On Call Internet in the past, I’m leaning more towards Telus being…less wrong.

    1. Dear Anon (astro-turf?),
      I generally had really great service from On Call so I am sorry to hear different from you, whoever you are.
      However even if I had poor business dealings with the company I don’t think I can lie in court to settle the matter to my advantage.

  21. Harper (actually Industry Canada Minister Tony Clement) at one point threatened to overrule CRTC decision to allow telco’s to charge small ISP’s according to the amount of bandwidth they are using. This was just to satisfy the public which was outraged by this ruling. Don’t worry, telco’s are back at it. They are already pushing Netflix out of business. Also, Harper will introduce internet surveillance so we can all be happy with having no privacy. We live in a democracy so we have to accept the decision of the majority, but this will cost us our freedoms and liberties we hold so dear, just as Americans are paying the price from giving power to Bush in 2000.

  22. Solution is to stop paying taxes. Starve the beast. Bureaucrats are your enemy. Urge politicians to reduce their wages and pension benefits.

    The CRTC is run by the teleco’s so complaining to them is useless. Make lists of names and addresses, know your enemy.

  23. I officially declare these boingboing comments astro-snowed (the Canadian version of astro-turfed). If you mean it, sign your name.

  24. On Call’s situation is not unique. There is a string of ISPs that have made the same complaints of overbilling. The strategy of the encumbents seems clear as there is a distinct pattern of behavior in all of them.

    Look Communications took Bell / Rogers to court over the same issues. They found a unique way to settle without any admission of guilt. Look owned spectrum. Look was asking for $24 Million in damages. Bell / Rogers & Look settled out of court. The legal suit was dropped and Bell / Rogers bought the spectrum by over paying by $24M.

    Cybersurf Corp. is still in a legal suit with Bell. Again the same situation as On Call. They were overbilled, and distracted with legal until they had to sell the assets and close their doors. Cybersurf however took the proceeds from the sale ~$4.0M are suing Bell for damages. Bell has exhausted nearly every angle trying to prevent this from going to court. Case is on-going, but people should perhaps rally behind Cybersurf in an effort to finally crack this problem wide open. By getting one ISP to court, with one favorable outcome the case would set precident and open up all encumbents to further strutiny.


  25. Shawn Hall from TELUS here. I would like to clarify the actual facts of this situation.

    The allegations Ms. Quigley makes in this YouTube video are simply untrue, and have been proven untrue. Since 2007, Ms. Quigley has brought these allegations up before the BC Supreme Court, the BC Court of Appeal, an arbitrator, the CRTC, and the federal Court of Appeal. On each occasion, her claims have been demonstrated to be completely false.

    TELUS billed Ms. Quigley standard rates for wholesale ADSL bandwidth, which she then retailed to customers. It’s unclear where the money she collected from those customers went, but it did not go to pay her major suppliers for services rendered.

    As to Ms. Quigley’s claim that TELUS overcharged On Call, here’s what the Arbitrator had to say about that:

    “In the result I am satisfied that TELUS has applied a very high standard of care in determining the amounts presently due from On Call and I conclude that as of November 4, 2009 On Call is indebted to TELUS in the amount of $810,669.58.”

    The Arbitrator’s ruling was upheld by the British Columbia Supreme Court.

    Unfortunately, this is a simple matter of a customer not paying their suppliers’ bills over the course of years, finally going bankrupt, and the business being sold. On Call is now being operated effectively by a second local Internet service provider that purchased the operation from bankruptcy. We continue to provide bandwidth to the new owners of On Call Internet Services, and enjoy a strong relationship with that provider, as well as dozens of providers across western Canada.

  26. I live in the city where this company once operated.

    This company provides (now the replacement company) our company internet services and they have been inconsistent with services and antiquated technology. It is not surprising this company went out of business. Although they did provide a decent service to the rural areas of Kamloops through dial-up services.

    However, their technology investments (or lack thereof) contributed significantly to their bankruptcy. Not just their argument that Telus owed them close to $1 million and Telus claiming the opposite.

    It’s my opinion, that they over extended their abilities in this city.

  27. Now I don’t know who is in the right here, but why does BB (or Cory) automatically accept Ms. Quigley’s position when all we can go by is this not-very-balanced (by its very nature) video? Shouldn’t you guys be a little bit more careful to stay away from anything that could be construed as libel, what with your servers being in Canada and all? Maybe throw some qualifiers in there and say that Ms. Quigley “alleges that”…?

  28. Disappointed in the bias and falsity of this article.

    Telus isn’t a monopoly in BC; Shaw is the largest competitor, for example. As Mr. Hall posted earlier, the legal findings are clear (and public).

    And Telus sells bandwidth to a number of other small ISPs in BC. If this were ‘corruption’, rather than a simple case of a supplier not being paid, why are those other ISPs still in business?

    You are not well-served by posts like this, Cory.

  29. Anyway, there’s more in there. All that to say that the purported CRTC letter which acknowledges that certain wholesale ADSL access services are regulated doesn’t seem to affect the decision at all, unlike the claimed “gotcha!” in the video.

    It looks to me (although I haven’t read all of the docs) like this is a protracted billing dispute between TELUS and OnCall where OnCall was in arrears (necessitating the settlement agreement/trust fund) and TELUS wished to jump the gun and terminate the service which was incurring bad debt. I don’t know if the video is deliberately misleading, it may just be that she has had bad advice over the course of this dispute.

    Well ianal (I am not a lawyer. :) )What she’s essentially saying is that Telus drove her out of business and is trying to find an impetus to sue them by claiming that they were selling her unregulated services as being regulated. Unfortunately she goes wayyyyy too far into the details and her message is pretty much lost. She needs to present a clear and concise case of why she feels she was wronged. Unfortunately, this is the risk you take when you take on an agency role for a larger company…you’re pretty much at their mercy. If they don’t use dirty tactics like what happened to this lady, then they can just litigate you to death, buy out your company then sack you (not a problem if you wanted to leave anyways) or lots of other craptacular ways.

  30. You know, there is a solution, here. Canada borders the US, and has quite a large border – very difficult to guard. (We can’t even effectively guard our border with Mexico, and it’s far smaller.)

    The US, thanks to the Second Amendment, has quite a lot of weaponry available.

    And, the Second Amendment was intended to effectively codify the final check and balance – when the rule of law written by legislators breaks down, switch to the rule of the laws of physics – specifically, the physics of small pieces of lead launched at high velocity towards a human body.

    In other words, if push comes to shove, and the government has failed badly enough (admittedly, it most likely hasn’t in this case), come down here, get some firepower, and go back north and take your government back.

    (Actually, I’m surprised with the economic collapse, we don’t see more of that in the US – people going postal on the companies and politicians that they see as having perpetuated the collapse. Guess it’s not bad enough yet, for most people.)

    Of course, that also leads into another point. I think that legal representation should be either:

    1. Provided from a truly random pool of government-employed lawyers, for all parties to the suit (basically, giving everyone public defenders automatically, and prohibiting providing their own legal representation), with the ability to, at any time, grab another random replacement from the pool
    2. Selected from a random pool consisting of all employees of the party – this means that you can either employ lawyers at every level of the company right down to janitorial staff, at extreme expense, or you run the risk of getting your janitorial staff as your legal representation
    3. Paid for by the financially advantageous party – so, if you have more money, you pay for the other side’s representation (which they select), up to a maximum of what you pay for your representation, no matter which side prevails

  31. In response to TELUS Mr. Shawn Hall’s comments, where he claims this is simply a matter of my company not paying its bills, I will respond, because this is far from the truth and very misleading.

    The truth is as stated in the video. Let me give you a specific example of where TELUS is not telling the truth. TELUS was required by law to have a tariff approved for the bundle of wholesale ADSL access services they sold to On Call. This was mandated under Canadian Law and they did not. Failing that, they were required to sell services in accordance with their own approved tariff, CRTC 21462, Carrier Access Tariff – Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line Service, Item 214, and they didn’t do this either. This was a breach of regulation and of Canadian Law, and it cost my company hundreds of thousand of dollars.

    Instead of correcting this when it came to light, TELUS covered it up by claiming that these services were forborne from regulation. They did this in both the Arbitration and before the courts. This was false, and it was confirmed to be false, by the letter that was obtained from the CRTC under an Access to Information Act request.

    Now, rather than admit to the truth, TELUS is trying to mislead you as well, by saying they were selling services at “standard rates” when in fact the standard rates are the illegal ones. It is time that TELUS started telling the truth instead of carrying on with these false claims. Now you can see why I called the video “Truth and Justice Denied”.

    I think this matter needs a full and open public hearing, so that we can all get at the truth, and On Call can get justice.

    Cindy Quigley,

    President of On Call Internet Services Ltd.

    1. Would it be at all possible to post the documents from all this? I would very much like to read all of what has been said, and try to make sense of it, rather than relying on a ‘he said, she said’ situation. I’m certain there’s much more to be said in those documents than has been, and could be, said in these comments. Thanks!

  32. Thanks Argus. We are considering how to do that right now so people understand fully what happened to On Call. The problem is that this has been a long process and has involved several proceedings. What happened could best be understood in the questions we have posted at under Call for a Public Hearing. This is the only way that the whole matter can be opened up to the public. I have already been threatened with several lawsuits so this does take a lot of courage for me to speak out. This is why I think a full public hearing is the only way to go. This would allow everyone who has been affected to speak openly and freely about what is going on. I hope this makes it a little clearer. Regards, Cindy Quigley

  33. Ms. Quigley went through the CRTC, arbitration, the courts, and who knows what else and all those outcomes favoured Telus. Contracts, regulations, and laws are the rule; but you can bet the onus was on Telus to prove that they were right (favouring the little guy).

    We obviously don’t have all the information from this biased clip or even the CRTC documents already published in comments above. Regardless, from my perspective, it appears Telus was in the right and Ms. Quigley is now trying to wage a PR retaliation.

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