How To Buy: The Best Internet Service


Comparing Interet Service Offers
Internet Service Comparison Factors

How do you know you’re getting the best deal on your Internet service? We all know the value of the internet, but we don’t all have the technical background to understand the serivce that is delivered to us. If you want tips on how to compare and buy the best Internet service for your needs, please read on.

I’m reluctant to over complicate this post with technical, contractual & marketing details. So, I’ll suggest to you that there are three basic things that you need to understand when buying Internet service from anyone. Namely … 1) Speed, 2) Usage & 3) Price. These are not the only things to consider when shopping for Internet service, but if you can use this information to cut through the marketing and sales hype from the Internet service providers you’ll have a good head start.

By the way, understanding speed metrics, usage metrics and price will help get the best value whether you want low-speed, high-speed or mobile Internet service.


Speed is the rate of data being served to you. Internet technology does not always match speeds in each direction, so it’s important to consider speed rates in two directions. DSL for instance will always send data faster to you (download speed) than sending data from your computer to the Internet (upload speed). For most consumers, download speed is more important than upload speed. Internet speed is measured in bits per second (bps). For high speed access, you’ll typically find rates quoted in Megabits per second (Mbps). If you’re not afraid of technology, you can investigate which technologies the service providers use and how that effects speeds. However, if you don’t really care about technology, then just stick to understanding the speed of the Internet service product offering.

As a side note, take a look at the Internet Speedometer  I found it with a quick google search. It might help you prove you’re actually getting the promised speed that you’re paying for today.


Usage is the total amount of data that is served to you over a period of time, typically one month. The metric used is typically Gigabytes, or GB. Some service providers don’t have usage limits. This is a good thing if you are a heavy Internet user (e.g. dropping TV service to get your news and entertainment over the Internet). The other case where this may be important to you is if you don’t want to be worried that you’ve gone over your usage limit and paying ridiculously high usage fees. Sometimes in the news you’ll hear when someone miscalulated their usage fees and they receive a $10,000+ monthly bill from their service provider.

All Internet Service providers should provide you a tool that let’s you monitor your Internet usage. I recently found out it was imporant for me to use the Telus usage app because I went over my monthly data usage by mistake. If your Internet service has a monthly usage cap and you don’t know how to measure your usage, then you may get an unpleasant surprise at the end of the month. Make sure you ask your Internet service provider how to do this.


Now you’d expect that price information would be straight forward, wouldn’t you? Hold on there. You’ll need to be cautious about a couple things.

First there’s the question of how Internet service providers communicate prices to you. You may have to cut through the “marketing speak” of some service providers (think of a used car salesman) to find out the real cost of your Internet service. For instance when I was looking into changing my serivce provider from Bell Sympatico to Tek Savvy recently, I noticed two very different ways telling me what the cost of their services were. The most meaningful price to you is the after tax monthly charges that will be coming out of your pocket. So, when I told the Tek Savvy person this is the way I wanted him to talk about prices he willingly adapated his communication style to what I needed. Unfortunately, the Bell people had to stay on script and could not talk this way. They clearly had a sales agenda that was not aligned to my shopping needs. I guess they thought that they could trick me into thinking there price was less. In reality it annoyed me that I had to do extra calculations in order to figure out the true cost after they gave me their “discounted” numbers.

The second thing that you need to worry about with price is what is included and what is not included in the quoted price. For instance, the monthly Internet charges for Tek Savvy did not include the initial cost of modem equipment. Luckily for them, they were very upfront about this cost when I told them I was comparing their prices to Bell Fibe. In fact, the sales person told me that Tek Savvy offered the equipment at a certain price, but that if I knew what to look for (specific technology standards), I could probably get the modem cheaper by picking up the equipment myself. The Bell Fibe equipment was cheaper during the first round of negotiation, but eventually I talked them into throwing in the modem for free.

When you have to add fixed costs into monthly charges to make a good comparision between company offers, I find it makes sense to combine the initial equipment cost with the ongoing monthly cost by dividing the equipment cost by 10 or 20 (i.e. amortize it over 10 months or 20 months) and then add it onto cost of the monthly internet service.

Putting It Altogether

Let’s put all this information together and compare quotes I recently received by Tek Savvy and Bell Fibe.

1) Bell  6Mbps, 60 GB, $64 after tax   [Service as of Sept 2013 after recent price increase]

2) Bell Fibe 15Mbps, 60GB, $41 before tax   [Faster service & lower price, hmmm, sounds interesting. Too bad I don’t trust Bell because of the poor customer experience they’ve given me.]

3) TekSavvy 7Mbps, 75GB, $34 after tax [$360 per year cheaper than the services I received in Sept 2013, but requires company change (risk) and the purchase of a new modem]

4) TekSavvy 7Mbps, 300GB, $39 after tax [higher usage rate which might make sense if I cancel my Shaw Satellite TV service]

Again there are more factors than just speed, usage and price, but you can see how I’ve used this information to organize my thinking. It certainly helped me focus on the important information for a first pass on my product/price comparison work.

More Resources

Shopping for High Speed Internet Service – US Government

I hope you found this post useful. Please leave a comment and let me know how well I’ve done. You can also let me know if you want me to write on another “How To Buy” topic in the future.

Bell Fibe Broke My Netflix! or Was It My Fault?


Bell Fibe Broke My Netflix!

I upgraded to Bell Fibe on a Friday afternoon a few weeks ago. I didn’t noticed until Saturday night that it broke my Netflix!

[Update November 13, 2013: Or Was It My Fault??? – see updated information below].

It was my original intent to write my next blog about how to purchase the best internet service, but I can’t believe that Bell Fibe broke my Netflix. So, this post is about what happened to me, and how you can avoid the same hassels from Bell Fibe, possibly by avoiding Bell Fibe in the first place.

The truth is upgrading to Bell Fibe broke all apps on my Sony TV not just Netflix. If you “upgrade” to Bell Fibe, be prepared to spend extra hours talking to Bell support to get them to do the right thing and not block internet service to your TV.

The background for this story was my Bell non-Fibe internet service monthly bill went from $57 after tax to $64 after tax over the summer. I used this as an opportunity to explore how Tek Savvy Internet serivce compares with Bell. I’ll write a blog on that topic in the future. After dealing with poor service from the Bell Loyalty department, I finally decided upgrade my existing Internet service with Bell to Bell Fibe as an temporary solution to lower my monthly bill to $41 per month before tax. Was that one of my mistakes? Maybe, but let’s continue with the Netflix story for now. Again , it looks like I’ll have to write another post to share my customer experience with Bell Sympatico later.

Here is the basic story.

Thursday: Old Bell Sympatico Internet Service: Netflix Working on my Sony TV
Friday: “Upgraded” to Bell Fibe 15/10
Saturday: Netflix not working on my Sony TV
Saturday: Bell Chat Support won’t help and hangs up on me.
Next step: Call 310-SURF and mention CRTC

Today’s blog is to tell you Bell’s reaction to my problem report. [Please look for the chat exchange I had with Bell support below]

Here’s a screenshot of the Bell Fibe router admin panel. Notice that the “TV Status” is disabled. Clearly Bell Fibe does not provide true Internet service, because the Internet does not discriminate by what types of devices are connected to it. Bell, I think we have a problem.

Bell Fibe Modem blocking Netflix and other Sony TV internet services.

It looks like I’m not alone. I did a quick google search for “Bell Fibe Broke Netflix”, and I found this video of someone with a slightly different problem. I know blogging about Bell Fibe problems might not be the most captivating of topics, but I really wish Bell tested out the Netflix problems before rolling out their new Fibe product, grrrrrrrr.

I’m pretty certain there’s a configuration setting somewhere that will fix this problem, because it was working perfectly before upgrading to Bell Fibe. My fear is that Bell has protected this configuration setting on their side of the network. Oh well, wish me luck, and don’t worry I’m sure Bell customer service will give me more to write about in the future.


Bell Live Chat from Sept 28, 2013

chat representative will be with you in about 0 minute(s). Thank you for waiting.

Chat representative Dietrich has joined the session and is ready to help. To start, please provide your name and home phone number.

Dietrich: Hello! Welcome to Bell Internet Services. How may I help you today?

you: hi, I just had a new modem installed by bell on Friday afternoon

Dietrich: Hi. Good evening!

you: the tech person made sure the internet would work with my pc – good

you: but I’m now having trouble connecting to the internet with my sony tv – not good

you: it worked with the previous modem

you: I tried switching ethernet ports on the modem, but no go

Dietrich: I understand that you are unable to connect to your Bell modem with the Tv. Am I right?

you: yes

Dietrich: To validate your account,may I have your B1 number and the complete billing address in this format street number, street name,city, province & postal code?

you: sure

you: b1******

you: ****************************************

Dietrich: Thank you for the information.

Dietrich: Are you trying to connect wirelessly or wired with the TV?

you: wired

Dietrich: Okay! I am sorry that we do not support configuration in TV as we do support only Internet configuration in computers.

Dietrich: For this, you will have to contact your Tv support.

you: are you serious? 😮

you: it was working fine until Friday afternoon.

Dietrich: Yes. I am sorry for that.

you: the new modem broke my existing service

you: one second, I’ll be right back

Dietrich: Okay! Are you been prompted for any information for connecting your modem?

you: back

you: prompted on my TV?

you: no, I have a valid MAC Address and IP address assigned to the TV when I check the modem admin UI

Dietrich: Okay! Yes. On your TV.

you: the modem understands the TV exists on the ethernet/IP network

you: I’ve never ever been prompted on my TV

you: with the new modem or the old one.

you: just plugged in the ethernet and go

you: the previous modem worked fine

Dietrich: Okay! If you are in need of any username or password, I can certainly help you in that and if not, I am sorry that you will have to contact the TV support as the modem works fine with the computers.

you: No problem, I’m calling Tek Savvy on Monday morning to switch from Bell. Your service is very very poor. 🙁

Dietrich: I am really sorry to hear like this from a valuable customer like you.

Dietrich: I apologize for the inconvenience.

you: no cut and pasting your text please

you: I’d prefer to talk to a real person

Dietrich: I am sorry for that.

you: me too

Dietrich: To speak with us over the phone , Kindly contact Bell us at: 310-SURF (7873) from Bell phone line or  Non-Bell phone line: 1-800-773-2121

you: do you understand that my internet service was working fine until the modem was changed?

Dietrich: Yes. I do certainly understand that.

Dietrich: Also your Internet works fine with computers now.

you: you are an internet service provider, not a device provider

you: so why do you care what device I’m using on the internet?

Dietrich: If your TV prompts for any username or network name, I will be able to help you in regards with that and in connecting any modem configuration.

you: I guess Tek Savvy will be more helpful than you.

Dietrich: But since that does not asks for any information from the modem or Internet connection, I will not be able to assist you in this regard.

Dietrich: I’m sorry to hear that.

you: Can you please confirm that you will not support my Sony TV on the new modem that Bell installed on Friday?

you: That’s the key question I’m asking.

Dietrich: It is not just Sony TV, We do not support configuration in TV. For this you should be subscribed to Fibe TV services and could you confirm the light status corresponding to TV in your modem?

you: Please confirm … your internet service does not support TV devices unless I want to subscribe to the Fibe TV?

Dietrich: If that is just a plug and play, our Internet service would support, but we at support level does not support the configuration of Bell Internet in TV.

you: ah, thank you.

Dietrich: Welcome.

Dietrich: Do you have any other questions or concerns that I can assist you with?

you: My device worked plug and play until you changed the modem.

you: the new modem does not allow plug and play

Dietrich: Okay! It seems that you have upgraded the plan to Ontario DSL Fibe 15/10 and the new modem is only suitable for the  new plan that you are subscribed to

you: can you please confirm that the Ontario DSL Fibe 15/10 plan will not support unrestricted internet access to a Sony TV?

Dietrich: It is not the plan that restricts the access, but the modem that you are using now. However for the specifications of plug and play regarding the modem, please check the manufacturer web page of the modem.

you: are you serious?

Dietrich: Yes, It is not the plan that you are subscribed to. It is the modem configuration that we do not support.

you: and you understand that Bell installed this modem yesterday afternoon. I did not choose this modem.

Dietrich: So, for further information key in for the Sagecom F@st 2864

you: Does Bell accept any responsibility for downgrading my service when I switched to the new Fibe plan?

Dietrich: Yes, This is the modem that Bell provides for residential Internet connection.

Dietrich: Could you please explain more specifically?

you: Okay, let’s try this 🙂

you: 1) My internet service was working fine for all my device yesterday morning

you: 2) Bell installed a new modem in my house yesterday afternoon

you: 3) Today you tell me that the modem that Bell installed broke the internet service that was working fine yesterday morning

you: 4) and then you say it’s not the Bell Fibe plan, but the modem Bell installed that broke the service

The chat session should begin shortly, thank you for your patience.

The chat session should begin shortly, thank you for your patience.

Could not send

It seems to me you’re not accepting responsibility for breaking a service that was working fine yesterday morning


November 13, 2013 UPDATE:

This is one of those embarassing times in my debugging career when it turns out that the first idea I had about the source of a problem turns out be wrong.

So, here’s what happened today. I finally got around to looking at the Internet TV problem that began a few weeks ago. I started debugging by going back to basics -> checking out the cabling. To my surprise I noticed a problem with the ethernet connection from my DSL modem to my TV. Whoa!

It’s been awhile since Bell Fibe was first installed, so I wasn’t sure if the connection problem existed at the time of my orginal complaint. I know I definitely moved the cables around after the Bell Fibe upgrade, so it’s possible the connection problem was introduced after upgrading to Bell Fibe. However, if the connection issue was there from the start then I might have been blowing a lot of hot air. Shoot! I hate when that happens.

So, I fixed the ethernet connection issue and retried Netflix on my Sony Internet TV. Guess what? It worked! Woo Hoo!

Lesson to be learned from my embarassment? Check the cabling before asking for help. If a friend or family member is also available, it would not hurt to ask them to independently check the basic cabling connections too.

By the way, I’m still not happy with the way Bell managed my pre-Fibe Internet service (see previous posts). At least now it looks like all my devices are working at the same service level as before upgrading to Fibe. Whew!

I think I’ll go forget about the public embarassment of my debugging skills by watching a little Netflix on my Internet TV using the Bell Fibe Internet service. 🙂