Tuesday 18 November 2014

St. Joseph Island Resident Successfully Engages Bell

Paul Gregory of St. Joseph Island has given me permission to release the story of his recent dealings with the broadband primary vendors who serve the area. For the most part I have let Paul tell the story in his own words.

Note that Paul followed the four P's of dealing with any telecom company - be Persistent, be Polite, be Prepared and be Persuasive.

Here is his story.

Before the new Bell towers went in I had a Rogers rocket hub which got a very poor signal. I had the 20 GB for $90 data plan but my speed was roughly 0.1 to 0.5 Mbps. Not really a broadband net connection at all. It was just painful. 

I contacted Rogers by phone and explained that I was paying for a service that they were not providing at a speed which was acceptable. They did a little technical work and told me that I was roughly 13 km line of sight from the one and only Rogers tower in Desbarats[1] that my hub could connect to.  The technical guy was frankly surprised that I got any connection at all.  

To be fair to Rogers they did offer something of a solution.  They offered to buy me out of my remaining Rocket hub contract ($90 cancelation fee) and cover the deactivation fee ($12.50) if I returned the hub to them at my cost. I jumped at the chance and since the Bell towers were just coming on line I headed down the station mall to the Bell Store with high hopes of getting the same $90 for 20 GB deal but with a better signal (and therefore speed)[2]

I specifically told Bell that I was looking to use this hub as my sole fixed physical Internet connection point and that I wanted the cheapest, fastest and largest data plan that they had available. I was told that the Flex 60 plan was the best that they had on offer. So on 23rd Sept 2014[3] I signed a two year contract and took home my new turbo hub. 

All was as expected, I got great speed (11 Mbps peak with consistent 10.5 Mbps) and it was basically night and day with the dross signal that I had been dealing with from Rogers. However I burned through 36 GB in 15 days and could feel a big overage bill heading my way! About $180 in overages costs in 15 days. Not sustainable. 

Then my next door neighbour told my wife that he had got a flyer in his post box about some new Bell Internet deal. I didn't get a flyer. If he had not told my wife that he did I would have been none the wiser about Bell Wireless Internet 5 (BWI5) even today. Trust Bell to keep the customer informed as to the best available deals open to them...[4]

So I rang (416) 807 1498 and spoke to a girl called Mina who told me about a secret data plan[5] and hub that was not available through the Bell Store network and was not advertised on the Bell website. When I googled Bell Wireless Internet 5 I got some information about Bell Fibe 5. It was clearly not the product that she was talking about. I only half believed that she even worked for Bell. The whole thing just felt too good to be true. Could this be a con to get my MasterCard number?

Anyway, I ordered a hub and paid full price and went month to month on the data plan.  It arrived about 12 days later and booted up without issue and worked straight out of the box before the tech could even come out and fit the external antenna. Without the antenna I got a great signal, with the antenna better still. But the speed was only 5.5 Mbps.  Was somebody throttling me?[6] More phone calls to Bell led to the conclusion that that was the case. I was essentially being offered a trade off. 11 Mbps and prohibitive cost or 5.5 Mbps and 40 GB for $50. This is a no brainer for my situation. So much so that I ordered a second BWI5 hub and data plan to match the first. 80 GB for $100 would do the job and I could live with the speed (in the absence of any real choice).  

Now what about this two year contract for the hub and Flex 60 plan that I don't want, should not have been sold in the first place and I have no intent on using further as it is way too expensive?

I felt I had been mis-sold but I could see this going either way. Bell might make me eat the cost of everything or they could come good and cover the whole thing and apologize for making such a poor job of selling me the right product. Guess what happened next. 

On the first round of phone calls I was getting nowhere. I had signed a contract and the Bell store employee had advised me as best as his training and knowledge allowed. On the next round of calls they could see my point of view and were prepared to 'meet me half way' and let me cancel the Flex 60 and keep the hub (it was no use to me as it does not work with the BWI5 data plan) but I would still need to pay half of the contract cancelation fees ($~90). I took this offer and cancelled the contract. It was costing me $60 a month just to have the hub sat in its box unused anyway. The quick a stopped the bleeding the better. 

Then I made a third round of phone calls. This was breakthrough time. I got through to a supervisor / manager (it is quite hard to understand the rank structure within Bell) who could see that Bell were already on the back foot. They could see that they had put me in the wrong product and were holding me to a contract which made no sense for me to ever have been advised to sign. Maybe they could feel a complaint to the CRTC pending. 

I was told that if I returned the hub to Bell at my cost ($26) they would forgive all of the remained cancelation fees for the Flex 60 plan and it would be like it was all a bad dream. I said yes and got down the post office as quick as I could. 

I have yet to see the adjustments on my bill confirming that Bell have done what they said they would.  But I am hopefully that I have got myself into the right and best available product for my requirements. Unless Bell are hiding an even cheaper faster larger plan from us all in Algoma?

(Fighting) Bell is hard work and some might say that that is how Bell likes it.  A customer needs to be calm and persistent to get the best out of them.  I did not find ADnet until after I had made the third round of calls to try and get some satisfaction from Bell. If I had found your site sooner I would have felt less alone and better informed as to what was out there for customers. 

[1] The nearest Rogers tower is actually north of Bruce Mines.
[2] A better signal is only one of the factors that affect speed.
[3] The BWI5 plan was available at this time but not sold through the Bell Stores.
[4] Many people did not get the marketing material. Based on my discussions with Bell, I am very suspicious their database is not very accurate. I was told they are using Google Maps as a primary source.
[5] I believe secret is too strong a word; poorly advertised and poorly explained to local Bell Store CSRs. There has been stories in both the national and local media as various times over the past ten years. Nevertheless, I believe Paul is correct in implying that Bell did not want the rate package to become well known at a time when they were charging other clients using the same infrastructure up to 10 times as much.
[6] Yes the service is "throttled" but is "throttled" in accordance to the speed stated they would provide for the BWI5 service.   True throttling would occur if Bell throttled the speed below the 5 Mbps. See the CRTC regulations on traffic management practices.


  1. Great story. Instead of purchasing two of the BWI5 plans, could you not leverage the max overage charges? If I recall it was $30 max.

  2. Nice to read about a success with Bell. It's hit and miss - I think I was pretty lucky - the Bell CSA (Meena, I believe was her name), and her supervisor (Rose - contact information is somwhere in this blog) as well as the antenna installer (I believe it was Tim from Citywide - who came out on a Sunday afternoon to get me set up) - they were all examples of great customer service. Unfortunately it's not always that way - getting to (or through to) the right people who can actually help you can be a hair-tearing experience. Kudos to Paul - pretty hard to keep your cool through all the FUD but you did it.

  3. As the old English proverb goes; “there's many a slip 'twixt the cup and the lip.”

    Included in the original Bell proposal as approved by the CRTC, there was a $30.00 cap on the monthly charge for additional usage. Unfortunately, Bell omitted this option - along with others - in the implementation stage.

    I pointed these discrepancies out to the CRTC, but they only showed minimal interest in raising the issue with Bell. In fact, they left it to me to discuss the issue with Bell.

    Without the $30.00 cap, the 2 unit solution becomes viable.

  4. I'm in for the raising of the $30 dollar cap issue! I'll go as high as $40.00 but that's my highest bidding!
    In fairness we should, in the future, be offered rate plan changes as per the usual changes in plans offered in the whole company. For example for DSL or Fiber users they have decent tiers which are manageable, I'm thinking sooner than later we will have a lot of users in the rural areas to market decent offerings.
    I'd take a $20.00 for 80 Gigs addon offering today if sold.

  5. I would like to thank the editor of this blog for the time taken to inform all of the Algoma Area users of the information offered here! This has been the best informative blog in Canada and reflects the passion and importance of a service for rural users, also to note how we in the rural area have been gouged for a service that is so tilted in price because we are rural.

    1. Thanks for your kind comments. I appreciate receiving the feedback.