Alberta communications companies suck

It’s about as official as it gets, now. We leave Costa Rica on 8 December. Which means that on the morning of 9 December, we’re going to be needing a few things. We’re trying to establish as much of that as we can remotely, so that it’s “in place” when we arrive. It just makes things easier, right?
Well, it would make things easier if we could actually set things up properly. Therein lies the problem — it’s not that easy to do! Especially when it comes to the Holy Trinity of communications services: phone, internet, and TV.
The term “rocket science” comes to mind…
Thanks to me blabbing my big mouth a few weeks ago, we have electricity, gas, and water services ready to start. (Thank you, Enmax. That was the most painless process I’ve experienced in … well, about 18 months.) We’ve even signed onto Greenmax in an effort to support alternative energy programs.
Insurance? We just called our existing agent (we needed some form of house insurance while we were out), and that was handled in a single email. (The car insurance is another issue. We have to buy a car first.)
Now let’s get back to the Holy Trinity. Calgary is a bit of an annoying place to try to set things up. Thanks to a whole host of weird half-collusion, half-competition amongst the major communications companies (notably Shaw, Telus, Rogers, and Bell), there’s a mixed bag of services that you can get. It breaks down like this, at least if you live in Alberta:

BellNoYesYes *Yes
RogersNoYesYes **No
ShawYes ***NoYesYes
TelusYesYesYesYes ****

* Wireless internet, provided either by USB stick or portable wireless modem.
** Wireless internet, provided by USB stick
*** VoIP service, instead of traditional hard-wired service
**** Is actually Bell’s service, rebranded (Bell even does the user support!)
Okay, this makes it a little “clearer”, at least in that you can see where some vendors are falling short. It also shows that — for all intents and purposes — there is really only one vendor that truly provides everything. Considering that I’m not looking for a landline phone, that brings it to two vendors.
But it’s not that easy…
When you start digging into the realities, you start running into roadblocks. I want to deal with one vendor, here. I don’t want to receive a whack of bills from different companies. I also want to get a package deal, knocking a few bucks off the service. Seems logical, right? It’s a shame I’m the only one who sees it.
So, let’s go with the following as a baseline (knowing full well that once you wade into wireless contracts, especially when considering more than one phone, data plans, and rates, the numbers become effectively meaningless):

  • Blackberry on a 150 minute local plan, 5 “favourites”, and ~500 MB data
  • Digital TV (not HD), with one step up from basic programming
  • Internet with 3 MBPs download (or better)

Here’s what we get on the vendors:

VendorWirelessInternetInternet LimitsTVBundleTotal
Bell$45$50*30 GB /month$51Unk. **Unk. **
Rogers$75 ***$30 ****500 GB /monthN/ANone$105 *****
ShawN/A$4460 GB /month$61$96$96 ******
Telus$50$3560 GB /month$45$80 ******$130

* Wireless, allows more than one computer
** The Bell rep I talked to said it’s possible, but Bell’s website shows no bundles for Alberta
*** Voice plan + data plan (there seems to be no combined plan that I can find)
**** Only works on one computer, device cost is extra, plus contract data plan
***** Does not include TV
****** Does not include wireless services in the bundle
Talk about a freaking mess. There’s no clear winner here, no matter what you do. I really begin to understand why there are people why say “screw it, just gimme the landline and I’ll use dialup”. This is way more difficult than it should be. Neither Rogers or Shaw deliver a complete service to me in Alberta, so they’re out. That leaves only Bell and Telus as one-vendor destinations.
My biggest problem in all of this is that Bell does offer great bundles … if you live in Ontario. If I go through their bundle there, the price is about $136, which is roughly comparable with Telus in Alberta. (Of course none of these prices include taxes and all the absurd service fees that go along with it all.)
If I bundle the best of the bunch? Bell wireless, and Telus internet and TV, for example? $125. A whole whopping $5 less than if I just choose Telus across the board. So, seriously Telus, why is your company so poorly organised that your Telus Mobility division is kept that separate? There seems to be no rhyme or reason for it. (By the way, I’m also a stockholder, so an explanation would be nice.)
No easy way to avoid this one, it seems…

4 thoughts on “Alberta communications companies suck”

  1. You are correct. Even your holy grail company Telus, as you mention, isn’t even integrated with Telus Mobility being a separate beast (therefore, a seperate bill, too).
    You can’t always get what you want — in this case a single provider and bill. Here is what we do …
    Shaw for phone, TV and internet. They actually send people to your house to set things up. Good luck getting that service from Bell or Rogers — Telus is even iffy in that respect …
    Virgin Mobile for phone — unless you are travelling outside of Canada, Virgin has no contract, low fee and, if you get on automatic top up, no paper bills as they charge your credit card. You can get an email bill if you need it for your records.
    In a way, I don’t want Shaw to get into wireless because as long as everything has to do with that little cable coming into my house — whenever I have a service call (which isn’t frequent), the tech usually checks all my services and tweaks them.

  2. Hey CR!
    I wasn’t trying to hold up Telus as a great example. In fact, I just had a friend of mine (who used Telus for internet and TV) tell me that because of the way the non-satellite version of TV is served out — over the internet — you can’t watch TV and use the ‘net at the same time.
    It’s really looking like this:
    Shaw: TV, internet
    Telus/Bell: wireless

  3. Hey Geoff, we use the SOHO package from Shaw as we also get to park our domain with them. Although I am running into memory issues with them, which I’m sure would not be suitable for your site, but thought I’d throw it out there. Been very happy with their service otherwise though.
    We also use Shaw for a land line. I have my number and Corey has her number. My line has the long distance package so we get free long distance anywhere in North America including Hawaii and Alaska, which is nice now that we have the other house in Las Vegas that Corey’s Grandmother is living in. I also get 1000 free minutes a month to the UK which is great ’cause that’s where the company I work for resides.
    So ya, I think overall, we’re happy with Shaw.
    Our cell phones are through Telus only because Roger’s didn’t have cell phone coverage out at our camping property north of Sundre, but our contract with them is now up and we are only month to month with them now so we’re looking to see what’s out there. If you see any sweet deals, let us know. I saw on the news last night that cell phone providers do over half of their business at this time of year and they’re getting quit agressive for your business, so I guess this is the best time to be looking.
    Good luck

  4. Hey Tom,
    Thanks for the feedback! We’re not trying to host from home, so not sure if we need SOHO. But Shaw seems the only real option for internet + TV as a combo.

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