The latest in our internet saga: sticker shock

internet sticker shock

Holy mackerel! $411.90 was not the amount I expected – or wanted – to see on my monthly internet bill. Especially when the usual amount is already fairly high, at about $100.

Have you been following the long and endlessly fascinating saga of the attempt by Raymond and me to get good high-speed internet here at the Manse? (Instalments are here, here, here and here.) I’m sure no one is as acutely interested in the topic as we are ourselves, though I suspect lots of residents of rural areas can sympathize with our struggle, and might be interested to see how it turns out. Because, you see, as I have written before, rural areas and the internet are not on the absolute greatest of terms.

It’s not for lack of trying. Lord knows there is a whole high-powered team of people – politicians and engineers and such – committed to the Eastern Ontario Regional Network, a project that pledges to bring high-speed access to Eastern Ontario. And from what I understand, EORN is doing a good job – in most places. The problem is that Queensborough continues to be, as an EORN engineer put it to me, “under-served.” Our little village is in a valley, which makes it difficult for those magical waves that emanate from towers that aren’t quite close enough to get to our homes and computers (and phones, and iPads, and so on).

Not having ready access to the internet was a trying enough situation for Raymond and me in the year and a half after we’d bought the Manse but were only here on the occasional weekend. But once we’d moved here full-time, it became critical to solve the problem; we both use the internet a lot, notably for work. And we had been spoiled by what was (we realized only in retrospect) the cheap and unlimited and faster-than-fast internet service that we had via cable when we lived in Montreal.

A few months ago (as I reported here) I thought I had our internet issue resolved. And I did – sort of. Thanks to the helpful folks at Telus – a company I had never previously dealt with – we acquired a wireless hub that provides pretty fast internet; often it’s almost as fast as our big-city service was. And we were getting used to monthly bills of about $100 – twice what we paid in Montreal, but worth it, we felt. We have even managed to tamp down our rage when the internet starts kicking out for brief periods, as it annoyingly does from time to time. (Maybe it’s the weather.)

But just when I thought the internet situation was satisfactorily under control, along came the most recent monthly bill from Telus. Yikes! It was (as you can see at the top of this post) for more than $400. What the?!?!?!

Seeing as how I do not have a spare few hundred bucks sitting around to send Telus’s way, I got on the blower (that would be the red dial phone, the hot line to Khruschchev) to Telus customer service. And while the chap I spoke to couldn’t have been nicer or more understanding, the mystery of how we had acquired this monster bill stayed mysterious through the best part of my half-hour call with him. He kept insisting that we must have been streaming movies or some such from the internet, and I kept insisting, truthfully, that we had done no such thing. In the interim he kindly said that company policy allows for a one-time-only reduction in the case of such unexpectedly high bills; it’s the sticker-shock clause, he told me. And he whacked $175 off the bill, so that (with tax taken into account) it came to a mere – a mere! – $214.15.

In the end, the mystery was solved. Raymond had been doing a lot of online work on a media project in the Manse’s study, and had decided he needed some music to work by. So he did what the folks on CBC Radio Two are always telling us to to do, which is to check out the CBC’s online music channels. And he happily listened to opera for pretty much two days straight.

It hadn’t crossed his mind, or mine, that such an innocuous use of the internet would result in a monster-sized bill.

But there again, it’s all about living in a rural area. The cable internet that we had in Montreal was a setup where many households were all served by that cable system – so it was cheap for the company to provide the service to any individual household, and our bill was relatively low. It’s all about volume and density. Here in pretty little Queensborough, where houses are far between and infrastructure like cable connections nonexistent, we have to get our internet through wireless, and building the towers that provide it is expensive. I get it.

But what a drag it is that, unless we want to pay hundreds of dollars a month, we can’t watch TV or movies or listen to music that’s online. All our friends in the city can, at basically zero extra cost.

Ah well. It’s a tradeoff, isn’t it? Beautiful place to live, unsatisfactory internet. But I’d be lying if I tried to pretend that I didn’t want it all.

EORN, are you listening?

23 thoughts on “The latest in our internet saga: sticker shock

  1. Hi Katherine. What a shock to you & Raymond. I’m afraid, though, that online streaming, listening to radio, etc. all eat up the monthly usage allowance. Is there a way that you can log on to your account and check the status of your usage? I am with Rogers, and I can do that at any time. I have a 80GB package, but I never use more than 30 per month, and I do check regularly to see how I’m doing. Mind you, I don’t listen to internet radio that much, although I do watch a lot of Youtube. You might able to tweak your package so that you can get extra GBs in your package and maybe for a special price. Something definitely is amiss here, though, with a $400 bill. Surely, there are options or special package deals??? Sadly, CBC radio is hard to get in rural areas. Even in Belleville, I could never pull CBC in on the FM band. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you, but good that your bill was reduced.

    • Thanks for the good advice and sympathy, Sash. I do have a Telus app on my phone that tells me about usage. Had I ever thought to check it before? Nope. Will I now. You bet! And yes, we will be checking out other options. Why is nothing ever easy?

      • You’re welcome, Katherine. This must be so frustrating for you & Raymond. Yes, please remember the usage meter. Also, is there an option with your current provider whereby they email you when you’re getting close to your limit?

        I’ve read the comments about the setups that some of your neighbours have, and also that business about Fibe being there (but yet not available.) I don’t know if this would help, but have you considered Teksavvy? I don’t use their service, but I was considering it (after I got so completely fed up that company that starts with “B” and rhymes with “hell” — which most of us have used for many years.) Instead, I switched to Rogers. However, people tell me they like Teksavvy, and they offer DSL, if that would help. Here is their link, in case you want to see if they can help and can provide service to your area.

        http://teksavvy.com

  2. If you go with Xplornet, in spite of the problems getting it satisfactorily installed, you can get packages that will boost you to 100 GB per month for an extra $5.00 bringing your total monthly charge to about $55.00 before taxes. Of course in Ontario, when you add taxes you get up pretty close to $75.00 monthly but with a 100 GB package you are very unlikely to ever have extra charges. I know, xplornet is a nuisance to get installed, but the chances of being surprised by your internet bill are pretty slim. As for reliability, in the three years I’ve been hooked up to xplornet I have not yet (keeping fingers crossed and touching wood) lost my internet connection even once. Although EORN claims it is ‘high speed internet’, it does not even come close to what we had in the cities (Toronto and Ottawa) but it is quite acceptable for most usage including streaming of movies or youtube. It certainly wouldn’t be your first choice, but something to consider in light of that outrageous bill.

    • Those are very encouraging words indeed, cs! As I know you know, we were discouraged at being told we wouldn’t get a satisfactory Xplornet signal unless we erected a pole (at our own expense) somewhere off in the corner of our property to put the satellite dish on, and even then it sounded like our signal might be a bit dodgy. But then again, technological issues can change, generally for the better, quite quickly, so it is definitely worth checking out the Xplornet option again sometime very soon. I’d be thrilled to get all the internet I want/need for $75 a month. Thank you for the good advice!

  3. If such is the case, EORN is really not working, is it? It’ll bring you service as long as you’re not “too” rural. But that’s the trade off, isn’t it? Live in paradise and pay for it. Extra for insurance because you’re 13 km from fire halls, extra for internet, and no municipal sewage, water, garbage or recycling. They know where to find you for taxes, though!

    • Ah, but then again, property taxes in our neck of the woods are not exactly exorbitant. (I can say that having received the tax bill in the mail today.) I’d be happy to pay a bit more in exchange for garbage and recycling pickup, let me tell you!

  4. Are you SURE Xplornet’s satellite dish won’t work for you? We have, just down the river from you, an Xplornet satellite receiver on our roof, pointed at the satellite, not using a tower signal. It’s just over $100 per month for 5g service – fast enough to stream video effortlessly. We did pay for the dish up front but there are other options for that as well. You can phone 1-866-841-6001 to start. Our only problems have been when there were high winds that required realignment of the dish, and that was only two times in 7 years.

    • Thank you for the good advice, pg! What with your comment and cs’s and mk’s, I think I will have to explore (sorry, couldn’t resist) the Xplornet option again. The problem the first time was that they couldn’t get a great signal on our property, which is right in the heart of the valley that Queensborough is in, and surrounded by trees to boot. We would have had to erect a pole fairly far from the house on which to put the satellite dish, and that pole would have had to be right on the line between our property and that of our neighbours. And its base would be encased in concrete, so it would be rather permanent. All of which annoyed the heck out of me, used as I was to easy city access to the internet. But things may have changed since that first inquiry several months ago, and we will look into it for sure. Again, thanks!

      • I don’t see why a dish mounted on your roof could not be pointed directly at the satellite, bypassing the need for a concrete pole. We had our installation done by De Castris Electric in Belleville, and they are still the people Xplornet sends out to repoint it when high winds throw it off. Express Electronics in Tweed includes Xplornet as one of the services they provide, so it would be worthwhile going in to talk to Jamie Demarsh, a very honest and knowledgeable local businessman.254 Victoria St. N. (613) 478 5731 Email: cashexpresstweed@gmail.com
        Home Electronics Kodak Photo Kiosks Passport Photo … Xplornet,
        The service we have is EOWC MAX 40GB and i use internet a LOT each day, including frequent video streaming and I have never had an extra charge.
        The xplornet main number is a good source of information as well – if you describe your usage patterns and your concern about not having extra charges, they should give you good information. Be sure to ask if they have any special deals available right now.

      • Thank you so much for all this valuable information! I think the problem has something to do with the hills (with trees on them to boot) that rise directly behind our house (to the west), and west being the direction the signal comes from. But we absolutely are going to look into this again. It very encouraging indeed to hear that others nearby are able to a) get good internet and b) stream audio and video without problems (or $400 monthly charges).

  5. Sorry again to hear your internet dilemma Katherine. Maybe your hub is not the best choice. Again I say we pay $59.99 for 5 gig a month with a download speed of 5 mbs. For $69.99 a month we could have had package 3 for 10 gig and 10 mbs but felt we would never go over the 5 gig which we haven’t. The installation and dish was for free. We had it installed by Electronic Connections from Tweed. Great service. We also on occasion lose our satellite if the wind is strong or weather is not so nice. But it is a miner disruption. I am always watching or listening to movies or music. And it was great during the Olympics to watch the men and women’s hockey team live win the gold. Yes the dish outside our house is not the most prettiest. But it suits us just fine. Best of luck next month and hope you work out these irritable solutions in rural Ontario. And don’t get shocked by a bill like that again!

    • Thank you, mk! Those are encouraging words, and as I’ve told others who have agreed with you on how the Xplornet option works well, we will for sure check it out again. I actually wouldn’t have any problem with having the satellite dish attached to the house; my problem was that the Xplornet installers said that that wouldn’t work, and that we’d have to put the dish on a separate pole that would have to be erected about 30 feet from the house. That was a bit of unsightliness that I didn’t want to go for. But I am hoping that in the time since we had that conversation with them the signal situation may have improved enough that a dish on the house might work (despite the trees around our property that apparently are such a large problem). Why is nothing ever easy, I wonder?

  6. This is why I “stayed” with Xplornet satellite.

    I’ve complained before that the Xplornet 4G Satellite was inferior [in terms of speed] and more expensive than Xplornet 4G Fixed Wireless and that I was disappointed that EORN [with $110 million of govt funds: $50 million each federal & provincial, $10 million municipal] didn’t ensure that Queensborough was covered by 4G Fixed Wireless. All it would have taken was a repeater tower near Underhill’s. I complained in August 2012 to EORN, Tweed Council, Hastings County CAO Jim Pine, MPP Todd Smith & MP Daryl Kramp but to no avail. The whole purpose of EORN was to provide high-speed internet service to those areas not considered economically viable by current ISPs. [Note, Xplornet Satellite service was available long before EORN came into existence.]

    The truly tragic part is that we already had high speed internet via Reztel in Queensborough. But when Xplornet was awarded an exclusive contract for Hastings County [unlike what happened in Peterborough County], Reztel ceased operations in our area.

    So, in Sept/12, I reluctantly selected the slowest Xplornet 4G Satellite package:1.5 Mb/s & 20GB/month for $49.99/month. In contrast, with Reztel I had 3.0 Mb/s & 20 GB/month for $44.99/month. Thus, I now pay 11% MORE for HALF the speed. [In comparison, the lowest Xplornet 4G Fixed Wireless package in Sept/12 was “EORN Lite” at 3.0 Mb/s & 20 GB/month for $39.99/month but it wasn’t available to us because Queensborough was not in line-of-sight with the Flinton, Eldorado or Madoc North towers.]

    The cellular network based services from Telus, Rogers & Bell Mobility, while more that fast enough, was not an option for me due to severely limited monthly data quotas: 20 GB/month via the cellular network would have cost me around $150/month or so. And, yes, I do indeed use 20 GB/month and that’s without streaming media over the internet.

    If DSL telephone service was available [it’s not: we are too far from the Madoc switching station], Primus would be an option: http://primus.ca/index.php/ont_en/internet/dsl-b.html

    Another alternative ignored by EORN was Bell Fibe Internet. The available packages are superior and very attractive [http://www.bell.ca/Bell_Internet/Internet_access] but Bell is not offering them to Queensborough [yet]. But, get this…fibre optic cables already run through Queensborough. I even watched the Bell technicians install them almost a decade ago. Another resident of Queensborough has a relative who used to work for Bell confirm this fact.

    If EORN was doing its job properly, we should have the option of receiving either Xplornet 4G Fixed Wireless or Bell Fibe Internet in Queensborough [and Reztel might still be in our area].

    • That Fibe situation just makes me crazy, Grumpy G. I know it would put an end to all our internet woes (not to mention TV and phone) here in Queensborough, and it is frustrating to know it is – well, so close and yet so far. I actually make it a point to call up Bell fairly regularly to inquire about when we’ll get Fibe – my own little effort to keep Queensborough on their radar.

  7. It`s truly the great divide. We moved 10 minutes and had to change providers and accept the only option they had, which is satellite wireless. It’s fine so far, but we have a cap, rather than unlimited use, which we haven’t yet approached, after which our service would be slowed down. It’s now possible to do our kind of work from anywhere…but way easier with decent Internet. Our previous provider described Netflix and AppleTV as “killing rural Internet” by driving bandwidth needs so high. It’s actually a really huge inequity that urban people have no idea about. Which is why I laughed in a friendly, “oh-those-city-slickers” kind of way to hear about Raymond blithely streaming audio without realizing how fast he was gobbling up your Internet time!

    • I know you feel our pain, Nancy. That’s kind of hilarious about your former internet provider and the comments about Netflix. Apparently you SHOULD keep them down on the farm, rather than letting them see Paree.

  8. As I mentioned before, the EORN initiative involved an investment of $170 million [$50 million federal, $50 million provincial, $10 municipal (via Eastern Ontario Wardens Caucus – EOWC) & $60 million industry] to bring HIGH-SPEED and AFFORDABLE internet access to rural areas in Eastern Ontario [essentially, Peterborough and eastwards]. It involved creating a fibre optic backbone or trunk lines with the final 10 km being services via wireless radio signals.

    As of March 2013, data from Ookla indicates that Canada’s average internet download speed is 16.6 Mb/s: . Of course, this is skewed by the superior service in urban areas where 81% of the population resides [http://www.tradingeconomics.com/canada/urban-population-percent-of-total-wb-data.html and http://www4.hrsdc.gc.ca/.3ndic.1t.4r@-eng.jsp?iid=34%5D: in the EORN region, speeds range from 1.5 to 10 Mb/s [and far slower with dial-up which maxes out at 56 kb/s or 0.056 Mb/s]. However, Canada’s average internet speed ranks in 34th place internationally, much slower than leader Hong Kong at 44 Mb/s. [For those with fond memories of dial-up access, check out this article: http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/dial-up-internet-used-by-hundreds-of-thousands-in-canada-1.1202392%5D

    With respect to costs per Mb/s, Canada ranks 30th at $3.61 (monthly, I presume) per Mb/s: Latvia & Russia are near/at the top at $0.78 & $1.05, respectively. However, in EORN-zone, my meager speed of 1.5 Mb/s costs $49.99/month. That works out to $33.33/month per Mb/s. That’s higher than Venezuela & South Africa at $27.21 & $28.20, respectively! [http://www.netindex.com/value/]. For those with 5 Mb/s service at $59.99, this works out to $12.00 per Mb/s per month: still not a great deal by any measure

    In 2008 & 2014, the federal government auctioned off several blocks of radio spectrum for use by TV broadcasters, Cellular phone companies & ISPs. The auctions raised $4.25 billion and & $5.3 billion for a total of $9.55 BILLION: . What if the proceeds [or at least a significant chunk] were invested in bringing state-of-the-art internet service to rural areas?

  9. Well, here it is, two years later and I’m still stuck with the abysmally slow Xplornet Satellite service. Even though I have the 1.5 mb/s package, actual download & upload speeds were 384 kb/s & 96 kb/s last summer. It improved slightly in the Autumn & Winter but not by much: signal drop-outs are frequent. And the price keeps creeping upwards…currently about $75/month. Extremely frustrating.

    So, why am I not getting 4G Wireless service from the “new” tower near the Rockies? Apparently, my neighbour’s house & trees are in the way. Sheesh. Still stuck in the donkey-cart lane of internet access…

    I checked on-line with Primus to see if DSL was available for Queensborough: https://primus.ca/index.php/ont_en/internet When I entered my address, Primus loaded a page with several plans [ALL better that my current Xplornet Satellite service]: so, it didn’t state that DSL WASN’T available for Queensborough….However, since TekSavvy has better prices and no mandatory term contracts, I’ll check it out with them first: http://www.teksavvy.com/en/residential/internet/dsl

    Note: In order to get DSL service, one does NOT need a “wet loop” [which is an active voice telephone landline service]: a “dry loop” [which I still have] is fine [it’ll cost about $5/month to lease]: http://www.mysignal.ca/#!dry-loop/c1i6u

    • Oh dear – I am so sorry to hear that you are still having internet woes, Great Gazoo. We have been so fortunate with the Xplornet setup over here at the Manse (only a few hundred yards from you) – basically endless internet for $100 a month, and I think only one blip in the signal the whole time we’ve had it. I look back to our early days of appalling internet and wonder how we survived the frustration and expense. It seems crazy that a few trees could cause so much of a problem in you getting the signal. You probably saw the articles in two of the local weekly papers this past week in which it was reported that the gaps in service north of 7 are known, and that big efforts are being made to close them. I hope that includes your house soon!

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