SaskTel Scraps Free Email Service, Will Start Charging Subscribers in Spring [Update]

SaskTel has discontinued its free email service and will start charging customers who want to keep using it later this Spring — reports the CBC

As of January 19, the crown-owned telecommunications company no longer provides “sasktel.net” email addresses to new subscribers. Existing subscribers who wish to continue with their Sasktel email address beyond April 2023 will be charged $1.95 per month for the service.

“The industry has changed since SaskTel introduced free email many years ago, and the cost to provide free email service is no longer justified,” SaskTel said in an announcement on its website.

SaskTel went on to note that there are plenty of free email services, such as Gmail and Outlook, available.

David Gerhard, head of the computer science department at the University of Manitoba, explained that running an email service can be exponentially more expensive for smaller providers like SaskTel, as opposed to larger players like Gmail, Outlook, or Yahoo.

“If you’re running millions or billions of email addresses the incremental cost of each address is essentially nothing,” he said. “So if the number of people who are using email addresses through SaskTel is reduced, then the per-email address cost would be increased.”

SaskTel provides email services directly instead of buying from cloud services, further adding to the cost.

“They’re constructing it themselves and serving it themselves, which is a more expensive way to do things,” Gerhard added.

The Saskatchewan-based telco said it is notifying customers of the upcoming change in service.

“SaskTel understands how important email accounts and addresses may be to some, and in order to provide customers with ample notice of this planned rate change SaskTel has begun communicating to impacted customers,” SaskTel said in an emailed statement to the CBC.

It looks like telecom operators are trying to trim extra services or pass their costs on to customers as of late. The news comes after national telecom giant Telus started charging customers a 1.5% processing fee on all credit card payments — a move that was partially blocked by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC).

Update January 23, 2022: On the day the SaskTel story hit CBC News, the telco announced it was scrapping its plans to charge for its email service.

“As Saskatchewan’s leading communications provider, SaskTel recognizes the importance of providing advanced and reliable communications services that are also affordable,” said the crown corporation in a statement. “In light of the feedback we’ve received from our customers, and as directed by our shareholder, SaskTel will no longer be implementing a $1.95/month charge for sasktel.net email addresses as was reported earlier this week. We remain firmly committed to delivering leading edge communications services to our customers across the province.”