Thunder Bay

Same house, 2 homeowners, same internet fight with Bell: Thunder Bay-area man files industry complaint

A man who lives in Stanley, a rural community just southwest of Thunder Bay, Ont., says he's having the same fight with Bell Canada over his home internet service as the person he bought the house from. Same house, 2 homeowners, same internet fight with Bell: Thunder Bay-area man files industry complaint

Brian Neureuther says Bell cut his 2-year internet contract part way into the deal

A Bell customer in Stanley, a rural municipality southwest of Thunder Bay, Ont., says he's having the same fight with the service provider as the person he bought his house off of. (Radio-Canada)

A man who lives in Stanley, a rural community just southwest of Thunder Bay, Ont., says he's having the same fight with Bell Canada over his home internet service as the person he bought his house from, and that the issue was caused by the company making the same mistake twice.

Brian Neureuther said he bought his house in the summer of 2018 and quickly signed up for wireless broadband internet with Bell.  Wireless broadband, which essentially uses cellular data technology to provide internet, is often used in rural areas where other options aren't yet available. Like cellphone plans, contracts are for a fixed number of years.

Several months into the contract, Neureuther said the internet suddenly stopped working. After a couple of weeks of troubleshooting and getting "bounced from department to department," a supervisor told him that "something on the towers was changed so that a network signal was no longer provided to my area, or to me basically, to block the signal."

The reason for that, according to the company, is that it "made a mistake and provided the customer with a wireless internet plan that isn't available in his area," Katie Hatfield, a company spokesperson, said in an email to CBC News, and also confirmed that "a similar error was made with a customer who previously lived at this address."

CBC News reported in 2017 on the dispute Edward Comba had with Bell over his home internet. Neureuther said he bought his house from Comba in 2018.

One difference, Neureuther said, was that it was Bell's national sales representatives who approved him for the contract — in Comba's situation, Bell said the local store mistakenly signed him up for the package — and Neureuther said that when he went into the local Bell store in Thunder Bay to pick up the necessary equipment, management told him the package wasn't approved for sale in Stanley but since he already had an account, they didn't dispute it.

"They decided they would honour the plan, or had to honour the plan, because I was already pre-approved for it," Neureuther said. "Which I thought was the right decision and fair."

'I'm not sure why Bell thinks that I deserve less'

When CBC News contacted Bell in 2017 about Comba's situation, a company spokesperson pledged to "make things right;" Comba confirmed that involved the company allowing him to keep his original package.

Neureuther said Bell is, instead, offering him a lesser package but at a discounted rate.

Hatfield said that Bell waived all fees, "provided more than $475 in credits (8 months of service), and set the customer up with new equipment and a service plan available in his area."

"I'm not sure why Bell thinks that I deserve less than the guy prior to me," Neureuther said, adding that he's submitted a complaint to the Commission for Complaints for Telecom-television Services (CCTS), a federal agency that handles complaints against telecommunications and television services.

Neureuther said he wants the same outcome Comba got.

Hatfield said that the company is aware of the complaint and that it came about because Neureuther "is not satisfied with our resolution."

Internet package not available in Stanley due to CRTC ruling: Bell

Bell has said it doesn't offer certain packages in areas like Stanley because of a decision by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission.

That ruling mandated Bell provide broadband service  — including wireless — to over 100 communities in Ontario and Quebec, funded by a company account consisting of money deferred from residential service revenue.

Several rural communities outside Thunder Bay get these packages, effectively subsidized by that account. Stanley was not included in the CRTC-approved list; Bell has said hundreds of communities were left off because service providers said they either provided service or planned soon to expand.

Neureuther said there's very few internet options where he lives.

When asked if the company doesn't offer Neureuther's original package in Stanley because of the CRTC mandate, Hatfield said it was.

She added that because Neureuther's complaint is before the CCTS, the company won't comment further.

"Bell made a mistake [before] and they would ensure that this wouldn't happen again, and lo-and-behold, a year later, the exact same identical situation happened again," Neureuther said.

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