Peter Vogel

Are you overpaying for landline, Internet, and TV?

Voices Feb. 4, 2019

Telecommunications costs are a favourite discussion topic for Canadians who are discovering more economical options. (Pexels)

Let’s face it, a favourite activity for Canadians is comparing how much they pay for that typical combination of landline, Internet service, and TV service subscription.

Increasingly one of those three is falling by the wayside, as the venerable landline has given way to a cell phone service plan for about 57 per cent Canadian households according to a recent survey.

Thanks to a couple we’ll refer to as Harriet and Henry, we have some interesting data that mirrors what many have gone through as they come to grips with the ever-spiralling cost of TV service subscriptions, as well as for home Internet service.

Harriet and Henry, both retired and B.C. Catholic subscribers, moved into their present condo in the spring of 2009. For four years, from 2009 to 2012, they used Shaw TV and Internet. The price started at  $110, and eventually rose to $164.

For 2013-2015 the couple switched providers and used Telus TV, a landline, and an Internet 50  plan, for a total monthly fee of $220.

In late 2015 Novus, a company specializing in alternative phone, Internet, and TV delivery in multi-unit buildings, entered the picture. It received approval from Harriet and Henry’s building strata council to carry out work to bring its service to residents.

These alternative providers typically offer a low initial price to gain approval from a strata, but, as is the case with the two mainstream providers, Shaw and Telus, prices tend to creep up after an initial year or two at the introductory rate.

In this case, Novus offered a TV, landline, and Internet 50 combination at $95. Although initially pegged as good for a year, the offer was extended to two years, ending in 2017. At that time the price rose to $130, and subsequently to $150, although the Internet component was raised to a 75 Mbps level.

B.C.’s two main service providers have made it increasingly difficult to compare plans, simply issuing statements with a single figure rather providing a breakdown of the costs involved.

In the case of Harriet and Henry’s Novus service, there is a breakdown of the monthly fee:

-Internet 75 $60
-landline $21
-basic TV $25
-Sportsnet/TSN packages $20 (primarily for Harriet’s year-round tennis coverage)
-BBC Canada $2.50
-PVR fee $5
-PST/GST $15

Having now experienced service from three providers since 2009, Harriet and Henry have formed some opinions of their current plan and provider.

On the positive side they say they experience better pricing and good customer service, as well as good Internet speed via fibre optic cable.

On the negative side they note an error-prone on-screen TV guide, as well as a poor search function for programming content.

On balance they report that Novus represents an improvement over Shaw and Telus,  especially when it comes to pricing.

Lest you think TV, phone, and Internet are all they pay for, we’d better include the streaming services to which Harriet and Henry subscribe.

They were longtime Netflix subscribers, but no longer. Now it is Amazon’s Prime Video at $8 a month, and $11 for MHz Choice, a service specializing in European mysteries and dramas, with English subtitles. They also make use of Knowledge Network’s free streaming service, as well as the recently launched Gem service from the CBC.

Harriet and Henry are considering additional streamers – Acorn TV at US$5, and/or BritBox Canada at $9 (both because of much-loved British TV content) – to their service. That would add around $35 to their monthly TV, phone, and Internet bill, bringing the total to about $185.

By the way, Harriet and Henry use a Google Chromecast to stream content from a Windows 10 laptop, Chromebook, or iPad to their television.

As for the future of television subscriptions, the standard service delivered via cable or satellite is clearly a model in decline. About half of Canadians under 35 have either never had such a subscription or they have become cord-cutters.

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