By Jim Poling
Published Jan. 12 2017
Few things hurt more than making a mistake that costs money.
It hurts even more when the mistake is combined with being ripped off. I made a mistake last summer when I signed up for a Bell Canada Internet hub. I signed despite having a bad feeling about the deal. One of those bad feelings about being burned by a company you have come to distrust. Ma Bell used to be a kind decent and well-run company. Then it went totally corporate. Customers no longer were a cherished asset.
Recent years have found my wife or me making monthly calls about some bad billing practice or technical screw-up. Despite that it seemed like a good idea last summer to get an Internet hub at the lake. It would solve some access problems and allow us to stream some decent television programming now that regular television has become a wasteland. The usual satellite television offerings had become pretty much unwatchable especially considering the monthly satellite fee. So in comes the hub. Sixty bucks a month plus tax of course for five GB which we were told would allow us some good Netflix viewing. We quickly discovered that $60 a month allowed us roughly two Netflix shows. That’s about $30 a show.
The hub was burning through gigabytes like toilet tissue in a bonfire. I was unwilling to let the hub bill run up to $80 or $100 or more a month so I put it on hold for $10 a month. The $10 basically as an instalment plan to pay for the hardware but it also allows 100 megabits of use a month. My wife and I share a cell phone plan and we allow each other 50 megabits a day to check weather and messages. It is small amount but works well for us.
So I figured that since I’m paying for that 100 megabits on the hub why not use it. It is a tiny buffer for the months when we might be running close to the line on cell phone usage.I decided to see how much use I would get from the 100 megabits. I turned on the hub checked my mail and the weather then logged out. To my dismay I learned that Bell does not provide a real time record of usage.The next morning I turned on the hub again to check how much I had used the day before. Nothing there. I checked the weather and mail then logged out.
Later in the month I checked again and was shocked to see that my two quick sessions consumed almost 600 megabits at an extra charge of $35 plus taxes.
That’s 600 megabits consumed in nine minutes each day on low data usage items such as mail and simple weather. No video. Just text. I called Bell India to ask how I could consume so many megabits in such a short time. The young gentleman explained that the hub eats up far more data than the cell phone. My hub had done the eating so I was to pay the bill. So now the hub is turned off and buried deep in a closet. When I need the Internet I connect my laptop to my cellphone and with judicious usage get done what I need to get done without paying extra. I will of course complain to the Canadian Radio-Television Commission which will ignore my complaint about how much more data the hub consumes compared to the cellphone. I hope the Commission will not ignore my other complaint: no warning on the hub that I am about to exceed a limit and be required to pay more.
When my cellphone approaches the limit of my plan Bell sends me a warning message. This allows me to decide whether to shut the phone off for what remains of the 30-day billing period or to go over the limit knowing how much more I will have to pay.The fact that Bell allows hub customers to run well beyond their plans without a warning is unconscionable. That’s not the old Ma Bell we used to know.