The Internet cap is dead! Well, almost…

1 Aug

August 1, 2011

By Geoff Meeker

It’s not every day that a column idea rings the doorbell, but that’s what happened last week. It was Chad, an ebullient salesperson with Bell Aliant, breaking the news that the Internet cap was dead.

“No doubt you’ve seen the guys in the white trucks over the last few weeks, installing fibreoptic cable,” said Chad, through the screen door.

“Indeed I have,” I said, inviting him in. At that point, I was merely curious. I’ve been a Rogers customer for more than a decade, with my cable, Internet and home phone currently in a bundle that costs roughly $157 per month (when I don’t exceed my 100 gigabyte Internet cap, after which I pay $1.50 per GB).

Bell Aliant was offering a similar package for $150 per month. Not much difference. But then Chad made his pitch, and seemed to know right where to aim it: Internet speed.

To paraphrase, he said the Bell Aliant speed will blow Rogers out of the water, a whopping 30 megabytes per second (mbps), down and up, compared to Rogers’s speed of “up to” 10 mbps down, and two mbps up. The “down” refers to download speed, which is traditionally faster than upload speed. (Rogers speed of “up to” 10 mbps means it isn’t even that fast, much of the time.)

“But Rogers has fibreoptic too,” I said. “Why aren’t they as fast as you?”

His answer: Rogers has fibreoptic to their distribution hub. From there, the signal is distributed over hundreds of miles of standard copper cable, which creates a bottleneck. Bell Aliant, on the other hand, is bringing fibreoptic right to your doorstep.

Then, the clincher: no cap on usage. No charge for exceeding your monthly GB limit.

I pressed Chad on this point, but he was adamant: no cap on usage. “We’re using two percent of the capacity of that fibreoptic line,” he said. “We know there is room to grow to meet future demands, whereas Rogers has to enforce caps now to manage their limited space on the copper cable.”

That statement is contradicted at the Bell Aliant web site, which warns that, “Bell Aliant will take measures to address any customer’s excessive use of bandwidth, which can negatively impact Bell Aliant’s Internet or its users,” and the company “reserves the right to suspend or terminate service in response to a customer’s excessive bandwidth use, without notice to the customer.”

Bell Aliant defines “excessive” as 250 GB per month – which is a great deal more than the 100 GB I’m allowed to use now, on Rogers. I decided to make the switch.

As for other services, Bell Aliant TV purportedly offers twice as many high definition (HD) channels as anyone else, PVR is included (accessible by any TV in the house), a better quality HD image (no pixelation) and the TV platform is vastly improved. Oh, and the PVR can record four shows simultaneously. I do like that.

The home phone is similar to Rogers, with free long distance inside the province and five-cents-per-minute anywhere in the world. It includes call waiting, call display and voice to email, which enables the receipt of messages by email.

My decision to switch is not related to TV or phone, though I do like the idea of more HD channels and better image quality. It’s the Internet speed that sold me. And as long as they stick with that 250 GB limit, I should be fine.

The downside? I will lose “Out of the Fog” and “One Chef, One Critic”; two local shows I do enjoy that are only available on Rogers.

If you don’t use a lot of Internet, it may not be worth the trouble of switching. Either way, when the service comes to your neighbourhood, you should call Rogers and tell them you have a better offer. The people at the cancellation desk will sharpen their pencils and give you a substantial discount to keep your business (they offered to increase my bundle discount from 10 to 20 percent, and boost my Internet cap at no extra charge).

Conception Bay South is the first community in the province to receive the fibreoptic service, but it’s going to spread outward from here. I will offer a review of the various services a few months from now.

I realize I haven’t given equal time to Rogers here. There just isn’t space to do that. However, if they’d like to challenge anything I’ve written or quoted, or offer a new perspective, I’m happy to oblige. And I do have a question for them: why does Rogers provide such strong community programming, while Bell Aliant has none?

Geoff Meeker is a communications consultant with a soft spot for technology. He also writes a blog about the local media scene, which is hosted at http://www.thetelegram.com.

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