Eastlink vs. Aliant, Part One: Local, Bundling, and Contracts

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

Local

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:

 

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:

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

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:

Aliant EastLink
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
$132.95/month $134.85/month

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
FibreOp
30Mbps down / 30Mbps up
Wifi modem Wifi modem
Home phone with all features Home phone with all features
$211.60/month $172.95/month

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

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.

Wrap-Up

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.

Author: Matt

My name is Matt. I live in Nova Scotia, Canada. I am an educator, a photographer, and a lover of all things technology. Check out the About page for more information.

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16 Comments

  1. Your best deals comparison information is all wrong.
    You have the prices and theme packs among other things in the wrong column.

    Also why would you compare basic DSL on one comparison then FibreOP on the other? I’m pretty sure they are the same price.

    Post a Reply
    • The columns were fixed last night, but for some reason it didn’t take. Fixed now.

      Not sure what you’re on about in regards to DSL vs. FibreOp – those are two highest bundles offered by each company. I’m not looking at apples vs. apples at this point – in fact I make a point to say that it is very difficult to compare bundles because there are so many differences. Also, this post is only the first – the next few will go into detail and compare DSL vs. FibreOp, etc.

      Post a Reply
  2. “Not sure what you’re on about in regards to DSL vs. FibreOp – those are two highest bundles offered by each company. ”

    No, DSL and FibreOP are offered by Aliant and Cable internet is offered by Eastlink. But in the initial comparison you choose DSL over FibreOP even though they are at the same price point.

    Post a Reply
    • Thanks for the comments, but this is not a “best deals” comparison. It was just showing what the bottom bundles are. Yes, there is a similar bundle through FibreOp, but this post was just an introduction – I wanted to show all of the options and how confusing it can be to choose.

      This illustrates my point exactly – there is a bundle that is essentially the same price, but you get faster internet because it’s FibreOp. Does the average customer know the difference, or know to even look for the difference? I went to the site and clicked “bundles” and this is what popped up.

      And again, this post is in an introduction. I’m going to look at each piece separately and in the last post I will suggest what I think are the best deals, or best services. That was not the intention of this post, and I was very clear about that throughout the post.

      Post a Reply
      • I completely understand your base point, the sites can be confusing for the average person. What I don’t understand is why you would omit FibreOP which is advertised all over the main site and bundles page. But point out hidden secrets such as, being able to add a wireless modem to Eastlinks service for $2.95 or that Aliant’s security features in the bundle are “not needed for educated users”

        It looks as though there is picking and choosing of what information is relevant.

        Anyways, I’m sure things will be clarified over the next 3 posts.

        Post a Reply
        • agreed testo. seems like someone either works for cough eastlink cough

          Post a Reply
          • I can assure you I do not work for Eastlink. One click on this site would take you to my About page where you can read about what I do for a living. But I guess conspiracy theories are fun…

  3. Where are the rest of the articles in this series? Specifically, what is the conclusion?

    Post a Reply
    • Immediately after I posted the first part, lots of things changed. Two announcements around local programming occurred, new features were released, speeds were changed, and channels were added. I have not had the time recently to take my original information and update it all to complete the other three blog posts. I hope to do that soon.

      Post a Reply
  4. Hello,

    I was reading your review and would like to note one item; although Eastlink does not require a contract, they do require you pay one month in advance so I think that is a consideration worth mentioning.

    Post a Reply
    • Susan, that is normal practice for pretty much every service provider at this point.

      Post a Reply
  5. I switched from Eastlink to Bell FibreOp 15 months ago. I couldn’t believe how cooperative Eastlink was with the termination. Amazing. I am considering switching back for two reasons 1) Eastlink local programming (e.g., our Summerside Storm basketball team are playing in Halifax today and I could watch them if I had Eastlink) and 2) being force fed Canadian commercials and content by Bell. For example, I was watching the Superbowl on a US station which I paid extra for me and the feed was via Global – instead of great Superbowl commercials I had Cdn commercials I had no interest in.

    Post a Reply
  6. It’s been roughly 10 months since the initial review.

    A lot of things have changed in that time but not this blog.

    Out of all the industries, Tech has to be kept up to date or you fall behind fast!

    I understand that people get busy but for a tech blog to go this long is disappointing.

    Post a Reply
  7. Having dealt with both companies, My conclusion is service and customer service are utmost important to me, I enjoyed Eastlinks services but thought that i would try the fibre op with Bell and the bundle was cheap when i first jumped on the bandwagon, fibre op was ok really didn’t see a difference. But when my bill kept going up and up, i had a bundle originally $99 i now pay 180 plus taxes .. my problem is dealing with Bells Customer service people and all the problems i had with them and the extra charges being added on. I am switching back to Eastlink as i never had any problems with them, should never have left..

    Post a Reply
  8. I know the comment was a while ago, but Eastlink doesn’t practice “normal” one month in advance billing, theirs is actually 2 months in advance.
    For example, I added Eastlink security ($1.95) 5 days into my billing cycle. The following bill, I was charged the $1.95 (month in advance), as well as an additional $2.95 (another $1.95 month in advance as well as the “normal” $1 for adding mid-cycle).
    As somebody who actually works for another company’s billing department, Eastlink’s bills are needlessly confusing and far from normal.

    Post a Reply
  9. this was an interesting experiment, but as per the above thoughts all things need to be current.
    Customer service is always a problem with large companies and with many smaller companies also. But we need to insure that we can get good service through those we buy from ie. your direct sales rep
    if this cannot be offered and followed up with then why would you buy that product.Get a good rep and make them earn their pay.

    Post a Reply

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