As of Feb. 1, Bell Canada increased its monthly rate for residential Internet access services by $5 in Ontario and Quebec.
According to Bell Canada’s notice of service rate changes, the increase in charges was put in place to support growth and enhancements to the company’s existing communication services.
“I think they are doing it because people are not with them anymore,” Jailyn D., second-year 3D Animation student at Humber College said.
She added that her family has moved away from the larger telecommunications companies to Primus because Bell Canada and Rogers Communications have “ripped them off,” culminating in the family taking legal action against Rogers Communications after the company continued to charge them for cancelled services.
Fowzia Ayam, third-year Business Administration student at Humber College has also moved to another independent service provider, Acanac, due to high prices with the larger telecommunications companies.
“[The cost of] Bell and Rogers was way too high,” Ayam said.
Bell Canada’s increase in Internet service rates follows a December decision by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), which declared that broadband Internet is a basic service across the country.
The decision will enable all Canadians to enjoy download speeds of at least 50 megabits per second (mbps) and upload speeds of at least 10mbps, with the option of unlimited data.
According to Sara Bannerman, Canadian Research Chair in Communication Policy and Governance at McMaster University, the announcement of broadband Internet as a basic service does not include price regulation.
The intention is that market forces and competition will create and sustain affordable broadband Internet pricing in Canada.
“I wonder whether Bell’s move will raise any doubts about whether market forces are able, in the Canadian environment, to adequately encourage broadband affordability,” Bannerman said in an email statement.
The CRTC has also established a five-year, $750-million fund to support the creation of and upgrades to the infrastructure required to bring broadband Internet access to all communities across Canada.
According to Bannerman, Internet companies, including Bell Canada, will benefit from access to this fund to serve more customers.
“Canadians might be asking whether the current policy environment is adequate to serve individual Canadians’ needs for affordable broadband, as well as the interests of Bell and other Internet companies,” Bannerman said.
Despite the recent CRTC decision, Meghan Sali, communications specialist with consumer advocacy group OpenMedia, said Bell’s decision to raise prices is likely not connected to the expansion of broadband Internet services established by the recent CRTC decision.
“The CRTC does not force anything on any telecom pricing,” Sali said.
She also mentioned that she would not be surprised if other larger Internet service providers follow Bell Canada’s lead and increase their prices as well.
OpenMedia has worked with smaller communities, including Thunder Bay, to take work on affordable Internet access at a local level and increase competition in these communities.
She also identified that the lack of competition enables these larger Internet service providers to raise prices.
“Enhancing competition and choice lowers prices across the board,” Sali said.