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Bell Sympatico page on DSLReports
Six Month Rating

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Review by Thane_Bitter See Profile

  • Location: undisclosed location
  • Cost Contract price not specified.
  • Install: about 9 days
  • Telco party Bell Canada
Good "Most over priced Highest DSL speed packages in Canada"
Bad "need perfect line conditions to get it and it's costly! Throttling, lost of Newsgroups, forged migration of email to Hotmail."
Pre Sales information:
Install Co-ordination:
Connection reliability:
Tech Support:
Value for money:
(ratings below consensus)

Thinking of signing up? Caps too low, sign up elsewhere.

Stuck for a while?: Seek technical support at the Bell Direct Forum

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There are several other DSL companies that provide the same DSL service that Bell offers but at a reduced cost. True, Bell does offer the highest DSL speeds available; however because of the technical limitations of DSL chances are your area does not support it (Bell will of course try selling it to you anyways!).

Presales information was somewhat incomplete, the standard price of service was and still isn't made particularly clear to potential customers. Bell prefers to front offers with a special price for 1/6 to 1/3 of the contract duration and provides little data on the price after this time frame. The material is further misleading because Bell advertises the overall speed of their service (under ideal conditions) including DSL overhead. The result of this is that any package will automatically be 15% then advertised. Finally Bell has and continues to use the disqualifier "up to" which allows them to offer a product that will not match advertised speeds. Again because of the nature of DSL, unless your DSL line has near perfect electrical characteristics - few are, the delivered speed will be less then advertised. A customer may be paying for a 7MB profile, yet due to a bad phone line/dry loop be placed on a 5 or 3MB (See Bell's FAQ on this site for profiles)

Installation is straightforward, order the service, receive the installation package in the mail, install DSL filters on phones, and finally connect the modem as described. Actual activation of the line will occur sometime on the activation day. A technician may make a service call on that day and require access to the phone equipment in your home.

Reliability with Bell is typical for all DSL providers in Ontario, however, email service with Bell has been problematic at times as they have been dropping their traditional POP mail service and converting it to a re-branded Hotmail service. (Note: that there may be privacy issues associated with this change as the Hotmail's servers are located across the globe) Bandwidth or Internet usage website has been plagued with outage issues, and reports data which can be up to 60 hours old.

Technical support at Bell had greatly degraded (exponentially), and is presently an abysmal, incoherent, intelligible, and next to useless do to outsourcing of this division to the other side of the planet. Watch out for misrepresentation, hidden contracts, and unexplained billing charges. Existing customers with unlimited (bandwidth) plans should take extra caution in discussing issues with the CSR as they may soon discover they have been moved to a contract or onto a fixed usage plan. In recent months technical support quality has improved slightly however there is still a great deal of miscommunication and misrepresentation of products and services.

Phone/service Technicians remain competent when performing service calls or line repair. I have found that the technicians are friendly and willing to answer any questions you may have related to their field.

Services - Services provided by Bell including their PPPoE software, diagnostic software, etc are not recommended. Bell only offers technical support on their own equipment (i.e. the modem) for free. Bell charges a rental fee for their modem which has increased substantially in the past few months. Even if you supply your own hardware, Bell will still charge the rental fee. Bell's bandwidth checker requires accessing their website (i.e. uses bandwidth to check bandwidth) and is up to 60 hours delayed. This coupled with their smallish usage caps often spells expensive over usage fees. Old plans still allow for up to 10 hours of free dial-up access - this can be useful while traveling aboard; a list of dial-up numbers can be found on Bells website if you search long enough, or can be obtained using Bells automated phone system 310-SURF.

Value for money - Due to Bells implementation of throttling, dropping of news services and mail serves, and their collaboration with Microsoft a the Bell MSN.ca portal, Bell is less interested in being an ISP, and would much rather regulated its users into surfing the web (especially partnered websites) in a method that is reminiscent of AOL.

In Canada there are few other options for high speed internet access, as both the cable and phone companies have control of 90% of the market. The lack of competition has stagnated improvements in service and maintains high prices. Fortunately the CRTC has opened the DSL market slightly, other ISP's have entered the market, however Bell is attempting to make changes that will effectively kill any competition by switching to a Bill by the Byte usage.

HSE (High speed edition), no longer offered by Bell, offers unlimited bandwidth at 6MB profile. This plan costs more then Bells current offerings (which are capped).

Equipment provided by Bell was originally an Alcatel SpeedTouch modem which was later replaced by a SpeedStream 5200 (e242) a later by a SpeedStream 5200 (e240). Bell deliberately locks out the firmware on the DSL modems providing only the most rudimentary interface and very limited support.

It took over three years to have an intermittent hardware issue to be repaired on the phone line. The issue was due to a damaged component that was part of Bell's local POTS service, and affected several other customers feed from the same service areas. Once an apt Bell Technician finally uncovered the problem (the issue with a subterranean device that several phone lines connected to), it took another four months for a different division of Bell to repair it.

UPDATE (5/09)

Bell has increased the cost of the modem rental. Take note that Bell does not included the cost of the rental in any of the promotional materials. Because the services is useless without a modem there is no justification for doing this and misleads the customer.

UPDATE (7/09)

Bell has changed their plan pricing packages and removed the 7MBSP service. Caps have also been lowered across the board on all plans (legacy plans are exempted). Potential customers that are still interested in sighing up (you really should not sign up with Bell) should note that the promised speed and actually real world results will show that AT BEST your service WILL BE 15% slower then advertised due do the nature of DSL technology. Examine all contracts, user agreements and related documentation carefully, as none of the advertising provides the actual cost of service, further more the prices advertises are lower then what the customer will pay because of auxiliary charges, fees and related hidden costs.

UPDATE (8/09)

Bell received approval for UBB billing from the CRTC; UBB allows Bell to move to usage based billing. It is expected that Bell will reformat their offerings to included usage in the very near future and that a typical bill will include a flat service cost, modem fees, usage fees, over usage fees, plus any other administrative fees and related hidden costs they wish to conger up.

UPDATE (1/10)

Bell Canada has discontinued operation of their POP servers (proxy gateway servers that directed traffic into the MSN mail system) replacing them with the “Hotmail” HMPOP servers. Users are required to change the settings of their mail client so that Bell may continue to cut costs and outsource more of its infrastructure to foreign corporate partners. 310-SURF support is still sub-par, users are recommended to use an Ouija board for pertinent information and technical answers.

UPDATE (2/10)

Bell Canada has increased the cost of HSE and other legacy plans to force users to switch into capped plans.

UPDATE (4/10)

A technical issue has given me the opportunity to reassess Bells technical support, but only for the staff at the Bell Direct forum. Unlike the conventional phone or chat support offered by Bell (a.k.a. the support sinkhole), the small, capable, friendly, human staff at Bells Direct Forum hosted on this website, can and do have the ability to respond to customer complaints, technical questions and general inquires in an efficient, timely and satisfying manner. As such I have bumped up my rating regarding their technical support.

UPDATE (6/12)

Done with them, bi-yearly price hikes and zero improvements to their local infrastructure puts them as the most overpriced ISP in the area. Speeds are still at sub Fibe levels and show no signs of improving. Again only the cost of service has been increasing and with Bell's on again off again usage caps they are the least desirable service. Bye Bye Bell

A reminder to anyone that goes ahead and has to have service with Bell, read the fine print and explore every little *, + , #, or subscript that spells out additional fees or secondary terms of conditions that relate to the product you are interested in. Bell's presale information is poor and the total cost of the product once additional fees and conditions apply is not what they show you in their advertising.

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updated 290 days ago