Bell offers Thunder Bay-area man home internet plan, cuts it, promises its restoration

After being contacted by CBC News, Bell said it will "make things right."

Edward Comba, who lives in Stanley, says he has few options for high-speed service

A Bell customer in Stanley, a rural municipality southwest of Thunder Bay, Ont., says the service provider suddenly cut off his home wireless broadband internet part way through his contract. (Radio-Canada)

A resident of Stanley, a rural community southwest of Thunder Bay, Ont., says Bell Canada has told him it will restore his home internet contract after the telecommunications giant abruptly cancelled it less than half-way into the deal.

Edward Comba told CBC News he purchased a two-year, wireless home broadband package from Bell about nine months ago.

Wireless broadband, which essentially uses cellular data technology to provide home internet service, is often used in rural areas where options like cable internet aren't yet available. Like cellphone plans, contracts are for a fixed number of years.

In early October, Comba said his internet suddenly stopped working; subsequent troubleshooting with the company eventually revealed why.

"Bell ... decided that that plan is somehow no longer available to me in my area," he said. "This, despite the fact that they had initially offered it to me last winter." Comba added that he had to purchase an antenna to make it work properly.

For the for $64.95-per month cost, the plan provided 100 gigabytes of data, with speeds comparable to DSL or a poor cable connection, Comba said. The plan was still "substantially better," he said, than the service — also provided by Bell — from which he was upgrading.  After the new plan was cancelled,  to receive comparable service, Comba said Bell told him he would have to sign a new contract at about $145-per-month.

"They didn't give me any option to finish the contract under the current terms, they just shut off the device, they would not negotiate with me, they would not meet me in the middle," he said.

"What they're saying is, that, if I want the internet at my house, I need to pay this amount and it needs to be under a contract," he said.

At minimum, Comba said, he was looking for Bell to honour the rest of the two-year deal he signed. "After the contract, we can renegotiate and if I need to go on the more expensive plan, I need to go on the more expensive plan."

Bell to 'make things right' company says

After CBC News contacted Bell about Comba's situation, a spokesperson with the company said that a local vendor mistakenly approved a plan that was only being offered in specific rural communities.

"We will be contacting the customer to make things right," Nathan Gibson said in an email. "Errors of this kind are rare, and we have spoken to the agent involved to ensure all policies are followed correctly."

At issue, according to the company, is a decision by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission that 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.

In the rural Thunder Bay area, the list of communities included places like Conmee, Shabaqua and much of the Municipality of Neebing. Gibson said that the $64.95-per-month plan, which is available in those locations, was effectively being subsidized by that account.
The areas in pink show locations where Bell was mandated by the CRTC to provide modern wireless broadband. (Provided By Bell Canada)

Stanley was not included in the CRTC-approved list and, consequently, the plan is not available there. "The entire project is unprofitable for Bell," Gibson said.

Hundreds of communities were excluded from the decision, Gibson said, because other service providers "identified those areas on the list where they at that time already provided broadband service, or to which they planned to expand broadband service in the near term."

Comba said his only other option is satellite internet, which is "in no way comparable."

In light of Bell's promise to fix things with him, Comba said the company has contacted him and said it will reinstate the deal he signed nine months ago and that the cancellation shouldn't have happened. He added Bell promised that any extra charges he's incurred will be refunded.


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