Bell Canada is increasing monthly prices for a number of its residential communications services, including home TV and internet packages, beginning in February. The increases will primarily affect customers in Ontario and Quebec.

According to the Bell Canada website, the price increases are as follows:

  • $3 per month for Fibe TV service in Ontario and Quebec (excluding the starter package).
  • $3 per month for satellite TV service in all regions (excluding the starter package).
  • $5 per month for all internet access packages in Ontario and Quebec (excluding dial-up and the "high speed LD bundle").
  • $2.51 per month for home phone packages in Ontario.

Bell's "Fibe 25" home internet plan, listed as the company's most popular plan, will cost $74.95 per month for Ontario customers after the Feb. 1 increase.

'Very, very significant increase'

Bell's price increases are "a very, very significant increase on prices that are already very, very high by international standards," said Dwayne Winseck, a professor with Carleton University's School of Journalism and Communication who studies the Canadian communications industry.

Winseck said it's common for Canada's major communications players to raise prices near the beginning of the year, adding he wouldn't be surprised to see similar price hikes from other incumbents, like Rogers, soon.

In an email statement, Bell spokeswoman Caroline Audet linked the price increases to Bell's infrastructure investments.

"Bell invests more than any other communications company to deliver the best broadband networks for our customers, even as customer usage continues to grow significantly (40 per cent in the past year alone), and innovative new features and upgrades to products such as our Fibe TV app," she wrote.

"Customers were informed of the changes with their December bills."

Hike comes after competitor cuts

Bell's decision to raise rates on home internet packages comes after third-party competitor TekSavvy announced it would lower its home-service rates in response to an October ruling from the CRTC, Canada's telecommunications regulator.

That ruling decreed that incumbent providers like Bell were charging their smaller competitors too much for wholesale access to parts of their network infrastructure. The CRTC ordered them to stop doing so.

"Bell's price hikes come at the worst possible time, just as many people are trying to nurse their bank balances back to health after the holidays," Katy Anderson, a digital rights specialist with advocacy group OpenMedia, said in a news release.

Anderson called for "government action to lower prices, invest in infrastructure and open our networks to ensure more affordable providers can compete fairly."

While the CRTC has taken action on wholesale prices, Winseck said he doesn't expect the regulator to make similar moves on retail prices, like the ones Bell has raised.

"We've seen a move away from retail rate regulation for over two decades now — not just in Canada but around the world."