Saved by the Bell

Cogeco Cable, Eastlink and Quebecor Inc. are complaining about Bell Canada’s planned purchase of Astral Media. In full-page ads appearing in yesterday’s paper they claimed that, if approved, Bell’s TV viewing audience (they already own HBO Canada, The Movie Network, and Family among others) will be twice as large as the nearest competitor.

Is the ginger group saying this is unfair? A monoply? If so, that’s a strange allegation given that the complainers have community cable licences that could also be called monopolies since any consumer on any given street who wants cable TV can only buy from the one authorized company. But maybe I’m missing a nuance.

Let me tell you why I’m happy with Bell, suppliers of my home phone and Internet services, and think they should be allowed to expand. Bell is in the process of changing paper bills to e-bills but when my first emailed notice arrived recently, the link provided couldn’t yield my e-bill. I called and a very helpful Bell operator cleared away the debris and I was able to see my bill.

Then she said, “Let’s take a look at your services.” I thought, here we go, she’ll try and sell me something. In fact, the agent looked at my phone bill and found a new package with all the features I previously had, but at a lower cost. She then checked my Internet, and not only cut fees, but also suggested a higher-speed version for a one-time modem charge of $49.95, half the usual price, and no more monthly modem fee. My total monthly savings for phone and Internet will be about $20 or $240 annually. When was the last time you heard such good news from a provider of anything? I didn’t get her name, but her Agent ID is EX42623.

A technician was required to install the new modem. Simon (I did get his name) arrived as scheduled this morning and spent most of his 90-minute visit up the pole two doors away trying to find a line that can handle the higher speed. There seemed to be none available. He has turned the matter over to his Bell cable colleagues who I’m sure will be able solve the problem. Meanwhile, after my experience, I’d be happy if Bell ran the entire world, not just Astral Media.

(Disclosure: I hold BCE Inc., Bell’s parent company, in my RSP.)

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