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More than 18,000 people have signed an online petition asking for lower rates from Rogers on Apple's iPhone. ((Eric Risberg/Associated Press))

Rogers Communications Inc. is taking fire from potential customers, who are outraged by the rate plans it announced on Friday for Apple Inc.'s iPhone.

Over the weekend, more than 18,000 people signed an online petition at ruinediphone.com, with many saying Rogers prices were "ridiculous" and "a joke" when compared to iPhone plans in other countries.

"At first, I was so excited that Rogers was offering the iPhone. However, unfortunately I will not be able to afford to use the iPhone to its full capabilities so it's not worth it anymore. I wish Canadian mobile phone companies offered prices that are comparable to other countries," wrote one petitioner.

"I had intended to cancel my contract with Bell just to purchase an iPhone. I was really looking forward to becoming a Rogers customer, but it seems that I would be discontinuing a relationship with one group of thieves just to begin a new relationship with another group of thieves. No thanks," wrote another.

One flaw with the petition, however, is that it is open to everyone on the internet, meaning that non-Canadians can sign it.

Many of the petitioners are angry that Rogers plans are considerably more expensive than those offered by AT&T Inc. in the United States, as well as those from some European providers. The basic Rogers monthly plan begins at $60, plus a system access fee of $6.95, and gives subscribers 150 daytime minutes and 400 megabytes of data usage.

AT&T's basic plan, in comparison, is about the same price — $69.99 US — but offers 450 daytime minutes and unlimited data usage. AT&T also only requires customers to sign a two-year contract while Rogers customers must commit to three years.

Both carriers are selling the basic iPhone, with eight gigabytes of storage, for $199 in their respective currencies while a beefier 16 GB version sells for $299. The devices actually cost more, but they are subsidized for customers by the carriers in return for the term contracts.

The low data usage has particularly angered potential customers since the new iPhone, which runs on fast third-generation cellphone networks, is geared toward internet surfing and watching videos. Such activity would chew through the allotted limit quickly and incur extra charges for the user. A single Facebook page, for example, can exceed one megabyte.

The petitioners plan to send a letter to Apple chief executive officer Steve Jobs ahead of the iPhone's Canadian launch on July 11 in hopes of getting him to pressure Rogers to lower its rates.

Rogers backpedalled somewhat on Monday and said the plans announced last week are not the only ones available. Customers wishing to buy the iPhone can select other voice and data plans, including ones that have been designated for BlackBerry phones, including a recent deal that offers six gigabytes of downloading for $100. 

"The [prices announced Friday] are only the plans that we think make the most sense for users," said spokesperson Elizabeth Hamilton.

Many potential buyers, however, had been hoping for a plan with unlimited downloading — something Rogers won't deliver because it would raise prices for people who don't want to use the iPhone's internet capabilities that much, Hamilton said.

Rogers is offering the iPhone on a three-year contract only because it is the most heavily subsidized device the company has ever sold, she said.

Caught by surprise

The rates also took Apple employees by surprise. A manager in a Toronto-area Apple store said the staff there were "very disappointed" upon learning of the rates on Friday.

The manager said all customers complaining in-store were also being told to call Apple's customer service phone line in the United States, which is keeping a tally of grievances.

A spokesman for Apple said he was "unfamiliar with Apple keeping any records regarding Rogers."

In announcing the rules of the current auction of cellphone airwaves, the federal government in November ruled the Canadian wireless market was uncompetitive, resulting in high prices and poor services for consumers. The government reserved airwaves for new entrants, who are expected to build networks after the auction concludes some time in the next few weeks.

While Rogers is the only existing carrier that has a network compatible with the Global System for Mobile communications (GSM) technology the iPhone uses, new entrants could possibly offer the device when they start operations. Rogers has not announced that its deal with Apple is exclusive, as AT&T has.