Alberta Politician Racks Up $20,243 TELUS Bill in Data Overages

How can you rack up 2.29 gigabytes of data in roaming charges in just 7 days? Actually, it’s pretty easy if you ask Progressive Conservative leadership contender Thomas Lukaszuk: You need to travel to Poland and Israel as part of the “Compassion to Action” programme and continue to work while on vacation. The result? A $20,243.91 bill from Telus for the data used while roaming. The catch? You let the taxpayers pay your bill.

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This article doesn’t want to be a tutorial — don’t try this while travelling. Instead, we are trying to understand how these charges were unavoidable, like Lukaszuk claims. So here is the story, as reported by the Edmonton Sun.

Lukaszuk took a week off in October 2012 and travelled to Poland and Israel. This international trip started as a private business trip; however, as Lukaszuk points out in his blog post, as a Deputy Premier — his position at the time — there isn’t any private time, so he kept on working. Beyond emails and news, work included a legal file, with lots of materials going back and forth.

“An urgent government legal matter arose that required my attention. There were a lot of long conversations, and proceedings with lawyers and the courts. The case itself is under a court-ordered publication ban, so it is against the law for me to provide details. A letter from the legal firm confirms that it was a government case. Suffice it to say that government faced an issue, it needed to be dealt with, and it was,” Lukaszuk claims.

The result: In roughly a week, he managed to use 2.29 GB of data — while roaming — so the Telus bill he received was for $20,243.91.

The story doesn’t end here: He tried to negotiate with Telus to reduce the charges and the carrier denied him. Lukaszuk refused to pay it, so he logged this amount under “other expenses” in his office’s February 2013 expense report.

When travelling, there are multiple ways to avoid high roaming costs for data usage: buy local cards (maybe this won’t work for a Deputy Premier), or access WiFi networks and use a VPN. So we are wondering: Why did Lukaszuk skip those alternatives?