In Halifax, there are two major players when it comes to home internet and television services: EastLink and Bell Aliant. There are a few other options, but this series of posts will concentrate on the two main providers in the area.
Both companies offer packages that include high-speed internet, home telephone, and television services with HD and PVR options. They both offer various packages that contain different internet speeds, channel packages, calling features, and so forth. And, confusingly, both offer packages that are more and less expensive than a similar package offered by the other. So, which one should you choose? Unfortunately, it’s not a simple decision. Over the next four posts, I’ll take a look at all the options and hopefully by the end, it’ll be just a bit easier to make that call.
For perspective, I spoke with several people from the region, as well as representatives from both companies – Jill Laing from EastLink, and Christine Manore from Bell Aliant.
The four parts will be:
- Part One – Local, Bundling, and Contracts
- Part Two – Television Service
- Part Three – Internet Service
- Part Four – Conclusion
So, let’s get started.
Part One – Local, Bundling, and Contracts
Both EastLink and Bell Aliant consider themselves local companies. Shopping local has become a huge fad in Halifax, and it doesn’t seem to be a passing one. I asked a few people if this movement extended to service providers and most said that they would prefer to buy services from a truly local company, but that price and features do often trump this. So it seems that Aliant hit the nail on the head:
In our experience, what’s most important to customers is having the best products and services, for a reasonable price.
Unlike EastLink, Bell Aliant is publicly traded. And Bell Canada owns 44% of the company. Therefore, there are lots of people outside of this area who own stock and make money from the company, and those dollars are spent outside of our region. And, though a majority of its employees and executive team work in the Atlantic Provinces, there is a small portion of its staff that do not. While they employe “1,000 people at nine contact centres in Canada,” some of the companies they contract work out to “use centres outside Canada.” For its part, EastLink says:
We DO NOT outsource our operations to other countries. We are very proud that all of our customer care centres are in Canada.
EastLink seems to have the edge here, if buying local is truly important to you. The company was founded in Nova Scotia 40 years ago and they only employ people within the Atlantic Provinces. They also run a local station, EastLink TV, and provide coverage of local events. They’ve been part of the community for a long time, as noted by this tweet from @regns:
@HalifaxTech for me eastlink since i grew up in the same neighbourhood as Mr. Bragg and his children
— Reg (@regdns) May 29, 2012
We of course can’t forget that Bell Aliant was formed when several companies throughout the Atlantic Provinces merged, and that they’ve been around for a long time, as pointed out by Twitter user @SmoggyRandall:
@HalifaxTech by lineage, bell Aliant. as it began in this province as maritime telephone and telegraph in 1910. My two cents.
— Randall Andrews (@SmoggyRandall) May 29, 2012
Both companies donate locally and give back to the community. And both employ a large number of Nova Scotians. EastLink agrees that being local is important, but that, in the end, it comes down to “providing high quality products and services.”
Bundling is a big deal. People love bundles. Both EastLink and Bell offer great bundles, and the majority of their customers take advantage of these packages. Both companies offer internet+home phone+TV packages. Aliant customers are able to receive a $5 discount on their bill if they use Bell Mobility as their cell provider. EastLink customers used to be able to get a discount if they had cell service with Rogers, but now that EastLink is planning to operate its own wireless network, that relationship has ended. Soon enough, you’ll be able to subscribe to an EastLink bundle that includes wireless “which will provide the most advanced voice and data capabilities.”
Eastlink is making good progress towards the launch of our wireless service later this year, which will provide Nova Scotians with more choice and better value.
EastLink secured wireless spectrum in areas across Canada, including Nova Scotia and PEI.
The basic bundles stack up like this:
|1 Receiver||1 Receiver|
|170+ Channels||Over 125+ Channels|
|High Speed Ultra
7Mbps down / 640Kbps up
|High Speed Internet
20Mbps down / 2Mbps up
|Wifi modem||No Wifi modem|
|Home phone with all features||Home phone with all features|
So, pretty darn comparable. The above bundles do not include any HD service. EastLink does have the advantage of offering the local EastLink TV channel, as well as some OnDemand content. Both include five e-mail accounts. EastLink does not include a wifi modem at this price point, but it can be added for $2.95/month. Aliant includes two security features with their bundle, which would cost you extra with EastLink. However, I don’t use any of those services, and I’m not sure of their benefits to an educated consumer.
I should note that both of the above packages are available at a discounted rate. With Aliant, it’s $99/month for either 3, 6, or 12 months depending on if you chose no term, or a 1- or 2-year contract, respectively. EastLink offers the package for $99/month for 3 months with no contract (more on that below).
EastLink has the edge here though, due to the much faster internet speeds. I will however discuss the technology behind both services and how it could affect your internet speeds depending on where you live and so forth in a future post.
Now let’s take a look at the top-end package:
|EastLink Whole Home Epic||Aliant FibreOp Best Bundle|
|1 HD/3D PVR Receiver||1 HD PVR Receiver|
|Lots of channels & HD + 6 Theme Packs||Lots of channels & HD|
|Video OnDemand||Over 125+ Channels|
|Movie Channels||Movie Channels|
|High Speed Internet
40Mbps down / 4Mbps up
30Mbps down / 30Mbps up
|Wifi modem||Wifi modem|
|Home phone with all features||Home phone with all features|
Here a true comparison is difficult because EastLink’s high-end packages include theme packs, which Aliant’s do not. EastLink’s download speeds are faster, but Bell Aliant wins the upload race by a huge margin. There’s a lot going here, and that’s why I’m going to break down each section into its own post so we can get down to the nuts and bolts of what each company offers.
The big thing to note here is, again, each package is offered at a discount. And, once again, you’ll have to sign a contract with Aliant if you want that special price for any longer than three months. Contracts, eh? Let’s talk about those…
Contracts are seen as inherently evil. Talk to anyone about their cell phone contract and I’m sure you will get an earful. Or talk to anyone who has tried to cancel any service and you’ll hear contract-related horror stories. I personally attempted to cancel StarChoice (now ShawDirect) service one time. It was near the end of my contract (less than two months away) and I called to set a cancellation date. That date was after my contract expired. They told me that if I set it for that date now, I would have to pay a cancellation fee because I was breaking my contract. I then asked what would happen if I called the day my contract ended to cancel. They told me they require 30 days notice and I would be charged for one more month of service. So, no matter what I did, I would be paying for thirteen months of service rather than the twelve agreed to in the contract. I then learned that this practice is standard, and many people have been told similar things when attempting to cancel ExpressVu (now Bell TV), Bell Mobility, TELUS, Rogers, etc.
Some companies are finally changing their ways because of customer complaints. For its part, Bell Aliant now states:
For a customer on a term commitment to disconnect without penalty, they would call in month 11 and provide 30 days’ notice to disconnect.
However, when asked why they require customers to sign contracts in the first place:
Contracts have become an industry standard and are viewed as a reciprocal agreement for discounted promotional periods and waived installation fees.
EastLink has this to say:
EastLink does NOT require customers to commit to term contracts. We are committed to earning our customers business every day. Customers do not appreciate contract fine print, or lock in mechanisms, especially when they are experiencing service or billing related issues.
While I agree with the sentiment that contracts come part and parcel with discounts, I do not think that they need to be an industry standard when it comes to home internet and television services. For cell service, it makes sense to require a customer to sign a contract when they are getting a huge discount on a handset. With home services, however, the discounts apply to free installation and money off the monthly cost. When their competitor is offering free installation and low prices/discounts without a contract, I find it odd that Aliant is sticking to its guns and requiring contracts for most discounts.
I like EastLink’s perspective on this issue:
EastLink does NOT ask or require customers to commit to a term contract. We work hard to keep our customers’ business every day. In addition, EastLink offers free service calls and DOES NOT charge access or termination fees.
There really isn’t much small print when it comes to dealing with EastLink. You can cancel at any time and not have to worry about cancellation fees or anything of the sort.
So, that is a basic overview of a few basic issues surrounding this comparison. If shopping local is important to you, maybe EastLink is the company for you. If you’re looking for a sweet deal in a bundle, we’re going to have to delve deeper and figure out exactly which bundle is the best option. If you don’t want to sign a contract, EastLink is the logical choice, though Aliant’s services are offered sans-contract – you just might not get an extended discount of certain features if you don’t sign on the dotted line.
Next up, we’re going to talk TV. Which company has the most HD channels? What about OnDemand? Whole home PVR? Apps on your TV?
Stayed tuned…. (pun intended)
PS: I’m still looking for opinions on the two services, so please tweet away, or comment here with your thoughts.