Switching back – a year exploring alternative tech providers.

It’s no secret that Canadians have little choice when it comes to technology choices.  A ruling by the CRTC several years ago opened the door for independent companies to lease infrastructure from the “big three” and resell it, creating alternative choices.  I’ve personally long wished to stop being a customer of one of these providers but was a subscriber thanks to some deep promotional items I received.  Last year we made the decision and cut the cable to, in our case, Rogers; switching to an independent provider.

We had been with them for nearly 5 years as a phone provider and, after thumping down a sizable payment, made the year long commitment to them.  This year our term came up for renewal.  We didn’t and switched back to Rogers.  Here’s some thoughts on life with an alternative and perhaps a reflection on how sad a state technology really is in this country.

Price

Let’s start here.  This is where many people find themselves switching.  The “big three” are very expensive and offer little in return as far as features.  Alternatives like Acanac or Teksavvy offer feature rich packages at less of a price.  Or do they?  My package cost us $45 a month from a recent promo from Rogers.  We get 35mbps internet, something you pay at least $49.99 a month for elsewhere.  When I compared apples to apples with this promo I found we were saving money by switching.  The only benefit we received from being with our independent provider was free home phone service.  But it really wasn’t free, it came at a price: contract.  More on that later.

Bandwidth Limits

This is another big one that sends people running for the alternatives.  It almost cost them too when the CRTC narrowly avoided allowing Bell to place caps on the customers of those it wholesaled its lines to.  Your third party vendors offer very high or unlimited internet packages – if you’re a power user its tempting.  However so now do many of the big guys.  In fact our current plan offers as much bandwidth as Teksavvy does in their base plans at comparable cost.  At face value the big three plans look small for bandwidth but you only have to push back a little to get big gains.  Expect to see this a trend that continues.

Contracts

Nothing sucks more than being stuck in a service for a period of time just for a tiny break in price.  While some providers tout contract free service it comes at a price premium, often just higher than even the public pricing of the big three.  If you want the real discounted price, as is advertised with Acanac or Distributel, you need to pay a lump sum for the year.  This is a surprisingly expensive price to pay for a discount because you’re locked in.  When you have services issues, and you will, you’re left neutered with no threat of leaving to them.  Really frustrating when trying to get some results from the support team.  Even companies like Rogers have recognized this and has begun dropping contracts for their technology services – save for mobile.

Customer Service

According to the CCTS, Commission for Complaints for Telecommunication Services, the big three are by far and above the largest generator of customer service related issues.  Personal experience was quite different than that.  Certainly all the alternative providers can’t be judged by the one we switched to, but the customer service was HORRIBLE.  No amount of complaining or service would make it better and their community forums strictly forbid ANY complaints – suspicious.  Any provider that does not provide 24/7 service to their customers is missing a huge part, something I’m willing to pay a few dollars extra a month for.  We were without internet for days at a time.  If you lose internet on a Friday night you’re out of luck until Monday.  One thing we have and still do enjoy with Rogers is exceptional customer service with nearly every call.

It’s not their lines

Sure the big three have to, by law, provide the lines, but they also have to service them too.  You’re basically adding another layer of pain when you use an independent provider and you have an infrastructure related issue.  You have to contact customer service and wait while they do their trouble shooting and then you have to wait while they contact Bell or Rogers and those two do troubleshooting on their own.  Then you get put on an appointment list, several days in the future.  Finally the infrastructure provider will show up and you’re problem may get resolved.  If not you get to do this loop all again.  Spending a few extra a month avoids this too (or the same a month as we discussed above).

The “Big Three” still get your money anyway

I get it.  We’re trying to stick it to the big three by switching providers.  Ever wondered why they never stop you?  Maybe even chuckle under your breath as you threaten to leave?  Well because a chunk of your monthly bill is still going into their pockets.  They get to make money on the network usage without spending any on marketing, customer service, billing and all that goes into making a company run.  If punishment is what you’re after, you’re much better off talking with the sales rep and pushing for better promos.  Watch for mailings that come in, they offer competitive packages.  Then they DO have to pay for expensive 24/7 support, billing and the whole lot.  At the end of the day switching away from them just makes life easier for them.

In case you’re wondering, the package we have with Rogers is contract free, 35Mbps/3mbps Cable with 300Gb of monthly usage.  $45 a month and the price will not raise for 8 years, modem rental included.  Yeah, its a good deal.

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