Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The $2-million comma

Rogers Communications thought it had a deal with Aliant that was rock solid. But then Aliant changed its mind, and a comma in the contract let them do it. Now Rogers might pay dearly for that pesky punctuation

Armed with the rules of grammar and punctuation, Aliant disagreed. The construction of a single sentence in the 14-page contract allowed the entire deal to be scrapped with only one-year's notice, the company argued.
Language buffs take note -- Page 7 of the contract states: The agreement "shall continue in force for a period of five years from the date it is made, and thereafter for successive five year terms, unless and until terminated by one year prior notice in writing by either party."
Rogers' intent in 2002 was to lock into a long-term deal of at least five years. But when regulators with the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) parsed the wording, they reached another conclusion.
The validity of the contract and the millions of dollars at stake all came down to one point -- the second comma in the sentence.
Had it not been there, the right to cancel wouldn't have applied to the first five years of the contract and Rogers would be protected from the higher rates it now faces.
"Based on the rules of punctuation," the comma in question "allows for the termination of the [contract] at any time, without cause, upon one-year's written notice," the regulator said.
Rogers was dumbfounded. The company said it never would have signed a contract to use roughly 91,000 utility poles that could be cancelled on such short notice. Its lawyers tried in vain to argue the intent of the deal trumped the significance of a comma. "This is clearly not what the parties intended," Rogers said in a letter to the CRTC.
But the CRTC disagreed. And the consequences are significant.
The contract would have shielded Rogers from rate increases that will see its costs jump as high as $28.05 per pole. Instead, the company will likely end up paying about $2.13-million more than expected, based on rough calculations.
Despite the victory, Aliant won't reap the bulk of the proceeds. The poles are mostly owned by Fredericton-based utility NB Power, which contracted out the administration of the business to Aliant at the time the contract was signed.
Neither Rogers nor Aliant could be reached for comment on the ruling. In one of several letters to the CRTC, Aliant called the matter "a basic rule of punctuation," taking a swipe at Rogers' assertion that the comma could be ignored.
"This is a classic case of where the placement of a comma has great importance," Aliant said.
The comma conflict
The disputed sentence: "This agreement shall be effective from the date it is made and shall continue in force for a period of five (5) years from the date it is made, and thereafter for successive five (5) year terms, unless and until terminated by one year prior notice in writing by either party."
How Rogers reads it: The contract is good for five years and is automatically renewed for successive five-year terms. The deal can not be terminated within the first five-year term.
How Aliant reads it: The contract can be cancelled at any time provided one-year notice is given.
What the experts say: The presence of the second comma means the conditions of cancelling the contract apply to both the initial five-year term and subsequent five-year terms.

Five Weird But Obscenely Profitable AdSense Niches

I’m now reading a new site about AdSense niches (NicheGeek) and it lists profitable niches that are quite different from what ever-so-popular keyword list creators are trying to sell you (GeekNiche is 100% free, too).

I’ve picked five weird niches that make at least 50 cents per click or more. That’s about 5-10 times what an average AdSenser can expect to make.

   1. Psychic Readings.

Psychic readings are nothing new. You’ve probably seen ads for phone psychic readings on cable stations for years. You can expect to make up to 70 cents per click on average and individual clicks may very well be worth couple of bucks.

   2. Car donations

Now, think about that. Someone would give you something that worth several hundred to several thousand dollars (donated car) FOR FREE. Wouldn’t you love it? All you have to do to get that free money is to advertise. Of course, car donations is a great AdSense niche.

   3. Breathalyzers And Alcohol Tests

Now, I don’t know why this is a killer niche. I guess is a thriving market for breathalyzers out there, including portable breathalyzers, like keychain breathalyzers or cellphone breathalyzers that I wrote about.

   4. ATM Machines

Holy crap, you can buy anything online today, including an ATM Machine. I wonder if it comes with cash, though? I wouldn’t mind paying three grand for an ATM if it came with $20000.

   5. CCTV

CCTV simply stands for Closed Circuit Television and it’s basically a video surveillance system. CCTV and other types of surveillance systems are creeping up everywhere – not just convenience stores and warehouses, but offices, homes, parks, streets, schools, etc.