Thursday, 28 May 2009

Bell speed blues

In the mid-1990s, while looking for a reliable Internet Service Provider, Sun columnist Gary Dunford recommended The-Wire, a small independent ISP that was launched in 1994.

Took his advice and was more than pleased with the performance of The-Wire until 2003 when we moved to Port Hope, well beyond its local telephone service.

Forced to seek an alternative, we went with Bell Sympatico dial-up, but continued to subscribe to The-Wire's webmail service at just under $50 a year and far superior to Bell's Sympatico e-mail system.

Bell Canada, and we emphasize "Canada,"surely must provide the same quality service as a small independent ISP, or so we thought.

The first frustration was having to deal with scripted, outsourced calls to India when there were dial-up problems. Dial-up problems became language barrier problems.

French-Canadians who use Bell have a designated French-language option for technical support, but English-speaking callers most often end up talking to someone in India or to French-Canadians who are not so fluent in English.

Bell Canada is in the communications business, but communication is not its forte.

We stuck with dial-up until last November, when family and friends and all the new bells and whistles on sites like YouTube convinced us to try high speed. Suddenly there was YouTube. TV programs on the Net. And faster downloading of programs.

When it was working, we loved it.

But just over six months later, with one-too-many India sessions and Bell in Ottawa perplexed by internal paperwork screw-ups they couldn't explain that caused sudden cancellations of high speed services, we cried "uncle."

A week ago Wednesday, high speed service abruptly stopped. Bell said the problem was located and service would be restored on Friday. It wasn't. On Friday, Bell said it would be back Saturday. It wasn't. On Tuesday, after two more hours on the phone, bye bye high speed.

Having high speed is appealing, but at what cost to your patience and stress level?

Bell knows how to entice people to high speed, but they need to hone up on how to keep the customers satisfied. And one big way is to cater to English-speaking customers on the same level as French-speaking customers.

So, for now, no YouTube clips for TSF, no TV shows or movies to watch, no Obama speeches to view.

What next? Rogers high speed? Cogeco? Satellite? We hear Rogers is forever nickel and diming customers. People we know who are on satellite aren't 100% satisfied.

Where is The-Wire when we need it most?


  1. Out west we have Shaw, which is great, and in Manitoba, MTS, which is even better. You poor easterners, having to suffer through Bell and Rogers. I pity you. I don't know what I'd do out east for Internet. Pick of the lesser of the two evils, I guess.

  2. Living in Port Hope try your independent ISP been in business more than a decade:

  3. I have been reasonably happy with Bell for over a decade, but outsourcing the helpline to India has definitely taxed my patience.

    To be fair, I've encountered a couple of really good technicians there, but too many of them just read the script and don't seem to care that much.

  4. We struggled with dial-up until we could bear no longer, the same frustrations you write about. Our only "high-speed" option was satellite since we're located in the Ontario countryside, so no high-speed or cable availability and we're too low for line-of sight, so we paid through the nose and now have a speed faster than dialup but much slower than our urban counterparts enjoy with cable. Funny how locations in the far north have high-speed through Bell, but it's not on "the plan" for areas of rural Ontario within an hour's drive of Toronto.

  5. I was a victim of Bell Sympatico's piss-poor customer service, until, frustrated beyond belief, I looked around and discovered Trytel (now Vianet). There's an office in Peterborough, but the customer support is based in Ottawa.
    After four years, I have nothing but praise for their service - not only can you talk to a genuine human being, (in person, honest!!) there are a variety of payment options: monthly, yearly, credit card, automatic deduction, cash, check... and so on. Replacing a malfunctioning modem only took a quick trip downtown, where a smiling human being handed me another, for free!
    (compare this with sympatico, who send you a mailer with an anonymous postal box address for equipment returns... accompanied with a dire warning that if you miss the deadline for returning it, you'll be charged replacement cost)

    I've only had to call tech support three or four times - there's no long wait and it's in Ontario.

  6. I have Cogeco. They're ok. I get consistently good speeds and their service calls are answered by people who actually speak English.