Internet services in Waterloo Region

This morning I glanced at a Primus advertisement that came in our mailbox a few days ago. Normally if I'm at the mailbox I just toss these with the dozens of other ads, but I thought for once I'd take a look at some of their claims to see if Primus really was less expensive than other providers. What I found was that they're much like the other providers in that there's a lot of little fees that get added on to make the initial attractive looking price look totally bogus.

On the front of the ad card the claim is "Switch to Primus today and pay only $29.95/month." Note that there is no asterisk or footnote beside the $29.95/month statement. It looks good, $29.95/month, hey who wouldn't go for that? Then you open the card and discover it's a promotional offer for the first 3 months. Not only that but there are a lot of other fees you'll have to pay which make the $29.95/month claim totally bogus. The first of these fees is a DSL dry loop fee of $10.00/month, bringing your total up to $39.95/month for the first 3 months - remember it goes up after this (to $40.95 which means with the dry loop fee you're suddenly paying $50.95/month after the 3rd month). There is a one time $49.95 activation fee, so forget paying $29.95 in the first month, suddenly we're looking at service+dry loop+activation ($29.95+$10.00+49.95). But your first month costs don't end here - you need to either buy a DSL modem ($69.96) or lease one ($3.95/month). Let's say you lease one, now you're looking at service+dry loop+activation+modem lease ($29.95+$10.00+$49.95+$3.95). The first month of these fees plus HST gives you a grand total of $106.05 for your first month! Thereafter for the next 2 months you'd pay service+dry loop+modem rental ($29.95+$10.00+$3.95). Tack on HST and you're looking at $49.60/month. So for 3 months of this 7 Mbs download speed you pay $205.25. Remember these are the *best* conditions (okay you could save yourself a $3.95 fee/mo if you already own a modem and if you're paying Bell big bucks for a normal phone line you save the dry loop fee, but lots of people today don't use Bell telephone for home phone and if we added that cost/month to the real cost the monthly rate would be a lot more).

This is just the first 3 months. There's no mention of a contract on the ad card, but there are the words "Terms and Conditions apply." Those terms and conditions are not listed on the card, you have to discover them on primus.ca to find out what they are. So I went to Primus' web site to find out what those terms and conditions are. It turns out I can't find out without giving up information that would identify exactly where I live. Not only do they want postal code, but address and unit number. I'm sure I could lie, but it's not the point. The terms and conditions should really be on the card if the marketing was honest. Honest marketing, is that an oxymoron? So let's say it's a year contract. That means you have 9 months at the ($40.95+$10.00+3.95+HST=$54.95) amount, that's $494.10 more on top of the $205.25 for a grand total of $699.25. Oh wait... we want paper billing instead of electronic billing, that will be another $1.13/month more, yup we're over $700.00/year for Primus Internet.

Is it less expensive than Bell Internet? Yes and no, it depends on your needs and what Bell might not be clearly stating on their offer. Currently there's a Bell Fibre Internet offer that runs $39.95/month for the first 6 months. This isn't an unlimited offer however, you're limited to 60 GB bandwidth per month. In my experience we occasionally use more (most months we don't, but some we've gone over 100GB). After the 6 months it's $49.95. Currently Bell is waiving the cost of the modem and the installation fee. With HST it works out to around $609.52 for that first year. But there's no mention if you need dry loop and no indication it's included or not. I don't think Fibre needs dry loop but I could be wrong. Here's the hitch, at $609.52 you're getting Internet that's up to 15Mb/s down and 10Mb/s up, almost twice the speed of Primus' similar offer. Now if we tack on Bell's current $30/month unlimited offer then the price does get a bit crazy ($39.95/mo+$30.00/mo x 6 months) + ($49.95/mo + $30.00/mo x 6 months). With HST we're looking at $1016.32 for the first year or over $300/year more. But I haven't looked into whether you can just up and leave after 1 year (in either service)...

Needless to say finding an Internet provider these days isn't as simple as a smile and a handshake with your local friendly Internet provider... but wait, there are dozens more Internet provider and some also seem to be offering some pretty amazing deals: Acanac boasts a $32.95 month deal (of course there are other fees, but other perks too). Teksavvy is our home Internet provider, we pay about $52/month after taxes, but that's because I own the DSL modem and we get a slight discount because we referred someone else (but I also have an additional $4.00/mo MLPPP and static IP fee).

We haven't even touched on customer service... and at this point it feels like a lot of effort to continue looking at Internet providers - another day.