News

Bell’s Unlimited Access Plan

Mark Goldberg notes that Bell has announced an unlimited data plan for wireless connection cards at a reasonable $75 per month (plus system access fees bumping up the price to $84).  The catch?  The fine print includes:

You shall not use or allow others to use the Service or your Device if such use:
  • consumes excessive network capacity in Bell's reasonable opinion, or causes our network, or our ability to provide services to others, to be adversely affected;
  • is for multi-media streaming, voice over Internet protocol or any other application which uses excessive network capacity that is not made available to you by Bell;
  • is to operate an email, web, news, chat or other service.

In other words, you pay for unlimited bandwidth, yet can't use many of the services that make affordable unlimited bandwidth such a necessity in Canada.

38 Comments

  1. Hmm..not allowed to use their unlimited plan for VoIP, unless it’s from Bell? Somehow I think the CRTC should have something to say about that.

  2. I love the weasel words “in Bell’s reasonable opinion is excessive” How can unlimited be excessive? In other words, pay us for the service, and if we think you’ve used to much, we’ll cut you off

  3. Is this unusual?
    The first point is reasonable, though I wonder if it would really happen given current state of technology. They should have a legal fallback if your use disrupts the service of other customers.

    The other two are arbitrary, but not unprecedented. I haven’t read any agreements in a while, but I recall broadband providers regularly putting use restrictions on both limited and unlimited service plans. I think it’s for the same reason: so they have options if someone causes technical problems by huge usage.

    You have to keep in mind that service providers don’t like customers with high bandwidth consumption. The customers they want are the ones who pay for good service plans and then only use a small piece of them. There are plenty of people who do that; the heavy downloaders are only a small percentage of their customer base.

    Of course the providers have to have infrastructure to serve the high-usage crowd, so they do incur extra costs disproportionate to what they would be willing to pay. These customers are lower margin for the providers, so the providers therefore don’t have a lot of incentive to fight for their business, sweeten their deals, or lift use restrictions.

  4. Need a different word than ‘unlimited’
    …since nobody actually offers unlimited. The first clause is fairly standard, and often applies on wireline – DSL or cable – internet connections.

    Might I suggest “unmetered”, which is what most customers actually want? They don’t actually want ‘unlimited’, because they expect their own usage to be reasonable. They want to NOT have to watch the meter and wonder what the next big download is going to cost them.

  5. This is a matter of truth in advertising. If bell wants to offer a 1gig/mo plan, so be it, but don’t say its unlimited — like most people think a dsl or cable modem is — then get mad at people when they use it like one.

    Not to mention why does bell get to decide what is and isn’t a worthy application to run on the internet. Because it competes with their own offerings? Forget that.

    Time for some wireless net neutrality while we’re at it.

  6. Class-action suit against cellphone syst
    “A Saskatchewan court has certified a class-action lawsuit that accuses Canadian cellphone companies of profiting from charging customers system access fees over and above their regular service costs.”

    [ link ]

  7. ecommercewebsitehosting.org says:

    Read “fair usage” instead of “unlimited”.

  8. Aron Burrell says:

    “…is to operate an email, web, news, chat or other service.”

    Seems to me from the phrasing that they’re referring to the running/operation of a _service_ as opposed to utilization of a service as offered by someone else. This seems in line with typical agreements on “home” DSL and cable packages (which in my experience are generally overlooked as long as the services aren’t bogging down the network).

    That was my interpretation at first reading. Perhaps they just need to make it more clear.

  9. New Canadian Resident
    NetZero did this in the US a few years back, and so does their subsidiary Juno. They sell ‘unlimited’ then arbitrarily dump anyone using more than 40hrs/month. If it isn’t “unlimited,” they need to SET limits so people know what they’re paying for. “Unlimited” does not mean “as much as we think you should have;” it means–well, Bell should read a dictionary before they write contracts.

  10. Bell has taken hints from Verizon Wireless in the US.

  11. Matthieu Lalonde says:

    Locked Down by the ISPs
    Bell’s TOS are absolutely outrageous. It is riddled with contractions such as:
    “In addition to the general terms set out above, you are prohibited from using the Service for activities that include, but are not limited to:
    [...]
    Analyzing or penetrating an Internet host’s security mechanisms.”

    And right after
    “As further set out in your Service Agreement, you are solely responsible for the security of your system and Account.”

    I would very much like Bell to explain how I can possibly be responsible for my network and system if I’m not allowed to perform security audits on it. Not to mention their clause which restricts you from running any servers on you machine: “[you are prohibited from using the Service for activities that include] Running and/or hosting server applications including but not limited to HTTP, FTP, POP, SMTP, Proxy/SOCKS, and NNTP.” What this means is Sympatico is selling a bidirectional service (you not only expect to get information from the internet, but also to bring information to the internet) as a unidirectional service. It’s almost as if you could only receive calls on your land line, not make them. I’m hitting on Bell, but all of the ISPs are doing terrible things. Rogers is charging customers who want to use VOIP with their internet access a 10$ premium for “better voip service” when in fact, they slow down VOIP over their network when you don’t pay; not the other way around! And Vidéotron has put caps on Vonage traffic coming from its customers (I’ve had numerous reports of friends saying at one point the quality suddenly dropped when Vidéotron decided to place the cap). We are already paying *high prices* for *bad service* compared to the available service in the US and in Europe. But it’s not enough, when you make billions a years you have to be greedy… wait all these other companies are also making billions… Seems like Canadian ISP just like their power trips.

  12. This is not unlimited
    They can’t even provide a number to give you an idea of the “limit” in their unlimited plan. That’s crazy. Give a limit so people will understand. I hate it when they don’t even explain the fine print so they can decide that you’re using it excessively. Talk about a moving target that they can arbitrarily decide to change at any time.

    But still, at least Bell provides an unlimited data plan. Fat chance for that on Rogers.

  13. It is by definition unlimited
    By definition the download capability is limited. The service advertises 3.1 Mbits per second download, so you are signing up for a bit over a terabyte per month based on the download rate. If their service can’t handle it all, don’t limit the customers, increase the network capability to accommodate what you have sold.

  14. I don’t see the problem here. Bells wording is FAR less restrictive than
    most other carriers around the world who also offer unlimited data. For
    example: Verizon wireless actually states that their “unlimited” plan
    has a 5GB cap. And, T-Mobile in the UK says they will cut you off if you
    exceed 3GB per month for more than 3 consecutive months on an unlimited
    plan.

    By contrast, Bell has the best unlimited plan available today…and its
    right here in Canada! And guess what? Its about the exact same price as
    Sprint USA’s unlimited aircard plan! I really don’t see a problem at
    all, and I think Bell is being extremely generous and not at all
    restrictive compared to other companies. EVERY carrier in the world uses
    the same disclaimer that they have the right to limit you if you abuse
    the service and adversely affect the network. Did you really think a
    company would launch an unlimited service without the power to protect
    themselves against morons who will start downloading movies all day and
    night through their laptop??

    Its no different than CityFido unlimited calling…which is subject to
    Fido’s fair use policy.

    You can be sure you’ll have unlimited data at Bell, but if too many
    people use absurd amounts of data like 20 or 30 GB’s every month you can
    also be sure they will eventually clamp down!

  15. Randy
    If Bell does not specify exactly the amount that is defined as excessive network use, how is the consumer suppose to know how much they can use.

    I find it odd that Bell offers an unlimited data plan, and then puts a clause in the contract that may limit the use of the data plan.

    It would seem like Bell is operating in bad faith, saying one thing, and the contract reads different, but does not fully explain at what point the use of data is excessive.

    I find it wholly inappropriate to offer an unlimited data package, and then limit it, it just seems like there is a lot of consumer misleading going on.

  16. So these plans did not last long. Bell has replaced them with limited plans.

    In Ontario and Quebec:
    [ link ]

    In BC and Alberta:
    [ link ]

    The kicker — Bell is now defining “excessive use” as anything over 1 gig per month, which just happens to be the limit for the top plan in BC/Alta.

    Even though users can keep the plan if they use less than 1 gig, anyone using more than that in BC/Alta is now being forced into a higher priced plan.

    Having spent $300 for the modem and almost $100 for just 1 month of service I feel like I’m being taken advantage of. While I don’t know how legal Bell’s actions are, they sure are leaving a bad taste in my mouth.

  17. “unlimited”? That is what I signed up
    I am totally ticked at Bell. I have only had it for 3 months.
    I signed up with Bell Mobility on Nov 16-07 for unlimited use of a USB modem. On Feb 14-08 I got a message to call Bell, so on Feb 15-08 I called and was
    told that I excessive usage and they are changing the “unlimited” plan to 30MB for $60.00 or 250MB for
    $100.00. I signed up for “unlimited” for $75.00 month.
    I insisted on speaking to a supervisor. So Jason
    (supervisor) comes on phone–I explained to him, and
    he said I’m going to put you on hold for a minute and
    see what I can do for you. I said ok Thank you. Then
    I was cut off (how convenient). So I tried to track
    Jason down–I called twice and was told by the last
    guy that he will email Jason and have him call
    me.–That was on Friday. Now today Monday Feb 18-08 A
    guy calls from Bell, I insisted over and over again
    that I wanted to speak to Jason. The man(Sarfraz)
    could hardly speak english but said if I didn’t pick
    one of the 2 plans he would cancel my internet.
    So I got nowhere–what choice did I have? So I said I
    guess I will have to take the 250MB for $100.00 which
    is hardly any internet use at all.

    Why is ok for Bell (or any other phone/internet
    company) able to change the rates and plans whenever
    they want-but us as consumers have to pay a fee if we
    decide to cancel?

    I live in the country and have little to no other
    means of getting internet except dial-up(which is
    horribly slow).

    I am really upset about this as I talked my cousin
    into getting the same modem as she is in the country
    too. Now she will have to be stuck on the 250MB for
    $100.00

    “unlimited” according to the user agreement

    [ link ]

    I did not violate any of those rules, but Sarfraz
    (Bell) said I broke clause 19

    I use the internet to get my emails, surf the web,
    chat to friends, and look up things for my Girl Guide
    Unit. I really don’t see how I broke any rules.

    “unlimited” means unlimited? doesn’t it?
    There was no “can’t use more than 1GB or 2GB or 3Gb or
    whatever————so how is the customer supposed to
    know how much is too much usage?

    Maybe someone can help me or at
    least point me in right direction. I know there is
    http://www.ccts-cprst.ca also BBB, but where will I get some
    results? Is there other places I should check into?
    Do I go to the newspapers and TV, and radio stations?

    Very unhappy customer
    Jenny

  18. I’ve just had a similar conversation with a Bell rep (after having a bell robot call me and request I call them back). I’ll be on the lookout for Jason – thanks! :)

    The rep would not tell me how much I used, or how much I can only use – I demanded to know if the service wasn’t “unlimited”, what is the limit?

    I love the freedom this service offers – as a telecommuter, it’s so great not to have to search for wifi – but 250MB/month is simply not enough for a highspeed internet service – it’s 2008 already! For corporate use, I need to use make voice calls (VOIP or skype), the occasional video chat, file transfers to/from my company network and use of our company wiki, servers and email. This is not excessive in my reasonable position. And if Bell argues that it is excessive, the are not being reasonable in 2008.

    Luke

  19. B
    Anyone think of calling CBC Market Place to see if they are interested in this story?

    I have had a similar experience with this so called “Unlimited” plan.

  20. I too got “the call” from Bell on feb.14, 2008. We had just moved into our new house, only to discover that there were no phone or cable lines laid. It would be months before Telus would lay cable, and the technician said that we would be too far from the substation for high speed. Cable companies had no plans to service our area. I was delighted when I found out that Bell was offering an unlimited data plan with a connection card, and so I went to the Bell store and bought their USB modem and signed up with a 2 year contract for the “unlimited data plan”. It worked as well as I’d heard even though we live in the boonies. I have had internet connectivity since the early days of dialup with Uniserve; and got DSL as soon as Telus made it available. I am a computer tech and a fairly heavy user of the internet. I purchase a lot of software tools and program demos, and I view demonstration videos. I do not download movies or music. I did purchase music drum samples for my son in feb., a 130 mb download.I estimate that my monthly usage is about 2 gb per month. I have always assumed that was about average usage. Bell, apparently doesn’t. They cut my service and didn’t contact me until the next day. Apparently letters were being sent to those of us who they considered to be using too much bandwidth. The Bell rep I talked to was polite and apologetic, but still insisted that I must accept one of their limited plans. I agreed to the 250 mb per month plan at $100 per month. Note to Bell: I also use bell expressvu and bell mobility, and I have always been satisfied with my service. I am not happy now. Contracts are contracts, and unlimited should mean exactly that. I did not abuse the service.

  21. Bell
    In regards to their unlimited access plans. This is not a true statement. I was kicked off the system after 1 ½ weeks… My total usage was 200MB downloaded…I bought the highest access and did not receive what a person would get with the $60 plan……1GB I fully understand their policy for VOIP or even heavy downloading of music or movies but I did nothing contrary to the contract yet here I am…
    Is there nothing a person can do?

  22. I have had the same thing happen to me but they never got a hold of me before disconnecting me. They tried to send me a letter by courier which arrived the monday following my disconnection on Friday at midnight (with the customer service escalation department closed on the weekend). I was traveling and lost my internet access for the weekend.
    They are very vague about the reason for the disconnection. At first they claimed excessive use. I had used 5.1 gigs in the month up to date. I questioned the notion of excessive use of 5.1 gigs on an “unlimited plan” when they offer a 5 gig plan with overage charges. They then changed their story to say that I had downloaded too much on a given day but never accepted to tell me what the criteria was.
    Initially they told me that they would not refund me the equipment I purchased and they finally came around and are now saying that they are willing to refund me. I am still debating what exactly to do.

    If I decide to continue I am planning to file a complaint with the CCTS but I expect that that will do very little. I feel that this was a bait and switch tactic and should be treated as such. I think the consumer protection act may be applicable and I plan on following this up. I currently have many bell services and will slowly be looking into alternatives.

  23. Chalk another person up who has been taken for a ride. Bought a usb wireless modem in december (full price) and now the service is being canceled. This whole mess really reeks. They are telling me that I have used excessive bandwidth, but last month’s usage was 700MB. When I signed up, they were offering a 1GB plan for less money than the $75 unlimited plan. How is it that I can pay more $ for less data and it is considered excessive in Bell’s “reasonable opinion?” To me it seems like they realised they made a serious error offering the $75 unlimited plan and now they are kicking everybody off of it using the made-up excuse that the terms of service have been violated. If they were actually concerned about excessive use, they would issue warnings to customers before summarily canceling their service and risk losing business forever (as they have mine).

  24. Dave
    Same story as above. I bought the USB connection card with the unlimited plan in December. The Bell Mobility sales rep actually told me to go home and download as much as I wanted- it is unlimited! Two months later, without warning, I received the nasty phone call. I would be cut off for excessive usage if I did not agree to go to a capped plan. The next day I received the nasty letter, basically saying the same thing. Then another phone call. Because I live in a remote area without any other highspeed I had to agree to their terms.
    I feel like Bell has ripped me off. They have resorted to bullying tactics to take back a plan that they never intended to continue with in the first place.
    I have 2 cell phones, Expreess Vu and my home phone with Bell. I will be looking for alternatives.

  25. Bell Mobility Help Desk
    Actually, this change comes from a operating cost stand point.

    The overhead charges in operating an unlimited service over thier network not only reduces overall bandwidth but also monopolizes some cellsites from providing any voice service. Your dropped calls and fades while outside not caused by the person your speaking to can be a result of the cellsite in your local calling area being overburdened by clients abusing thier use. Abuse as some of you tried to explain is in Bell`s eyes anything that uses a constant stream of Data. Which is why Youtube and other related websites are not directly supported by our PDA/RIM devices.

    Also, most of the service offered in the Central and Western provinces are based off of Telus`s network mainly and when clients are billed, they are billed as Data Roaming, which imo has Telus putting pressure on Bell to unload this use from thier network which impacts thier clients. I`m sure the same is being done from other carriers as well. So I`m not surprised no carrier currently offers unlimited Data. Furthermore the Data plans in the central or western areas have nothing higher then 250mb.

    I know its aggravating, but your ToS warned you. And it only takes one person to abuse something for it to affect everyone nationally on every network.

  26. Bell Unreasonable Unlimited
    After further discussions with a Bell manager, my account has been disconnect, and I can possibly return my purchased cell modem. I\’ve written up my experience here:

    [ link ]

    My overall observations of this experience are:
    * The Bell people I talked to were quite good – the store manager that sold me on the plan was great and friendly, and Terence, the manager I spoke to after my account was cancelled, was very helpful and sympathetic
    * The bell processes could use some improvement:
    o Having a robot phone me on the weekend doesn\’t show a lot of respect for my time or attention
    + Suggestion – When you need to contact your customers, use people, not robots
    * I installed an application to track my network usage. To navigate through Bell\’s website to find their current rate plans, I consumed 1.3MB download.
    o That\’s 20% of the daily usage of Bell\’s best plan!
    * If I wanted to fill my 4Gig iPod Nano with legal music downloads under Bell\’s best plan it would take 16 months of exclusive use
    o Or: $100 for the first 250MB, then $3 for the remaining 3750MB for a total of $11250.

    I can come to no other conclusion that Bell was not prepared to live up to this unlimited contract when they brought it to market. I feel like Bell made a horrible business decision that they could not support, and I\’m left out of pocket and out of service.

  27. I signed up for unlimited Internet and used 5GB. I was told that I was to have my account cancelled due to excessive use. When I complained I was told that I was impacting other clients and therefor had to be stopped. When I asked what I could do Bell suggested that I buy the 1GB plan and pay for additional GB usage. I asked what would happen if I used 5GB a month and was told that it would be OK. I then asked if my 5GB last month was killing other clients would not my using 5GB this month do the same. The Bell official said they did not care if I affected other clients as long as I was paying on a per GB plan.

  28. I found this site after receiving a disconnection notice from Bell Aliant in New Brunswick. My “UNLIMITED” plan is being disconnected. I, too, am being left with an aircard hardware purchase that is being rendered useless.
    I filed complaints with the Commissioner of telecommunications, Competition bureau and the BBB. All my attempts failed to come to a satisfactory resolution. Bell cannot and must not be allowed to get away with this.
    I wrote a lengthy email to marketplace@cbc.ca and other news media. Perhaps if others would do the same they would investigate Bell’s motives and tactics in this matter. Was their plan to dump the aircard hardware? Bait and switch?

  29. if you managed to keep the Bell’s useless U720, you can change its esn and use it on Telus, see shadowmite’s post at mobile files forum.

  30. bell
    Aprx. 8000$
    Thats my bill i just recieved from bell. For the exact same reason as everybody else here.
    I’m 19 years old and i was in school when i signed up for the 75 dollar/month plan. Unlimited downloads “as long as i don’t download a Gig a day” in the words of the rep.

    There is more to it, but thats just the abbreviated version.

    Seriously, not very many people can pay that amount of money.

    if anyone has legal advice PLEASE email me.

    ianfhipperson@live.com

  31. if you all signed a contract for an unlimited plan, maybe you should consider a class action lawsuit against Bell for breach of contract, perhaps we all can learn something new from the court the meaning of “unlimited”
    for those who are not happy with Bell services, I do strongly suggest that you stop any business dealings with Bell. FYI, I never recommend anyone to use Bell sevices anyway I would have to say Bell is probably one of the worst company out there, never hesitate to overcharge customers and you always have to check your statement and phone into CS to spend hours to get it right thats to say if the CSR can even understand their own billings. Change service provider and sue the company.

  32. Why does Bell do this?
    Bell has a philosophy that is contrary to all the other Telcos…worldwide. While all other service providers are building multiple 10Gig and 40Gig networks in metro areas, they feel that a single 10Gig network for an entire city should be adequate. What you have is a company that does not live in the current century. Remember IBM? They did not listen when everyone was telling them and moving to PC’s. They lost out big time. Bell is the same way. They want to tell the consumer what is good for the consumer instead of letting the customer determine what is needed. Bell will untimately destroy themselves. In less than 10 years, the company will not be around in any capacity near what it is today.

  33. SAME THING
    I have the same u720 card. Signed up Feb. 29, used it for 3 months and started getting the phone calls. People, robots, letters, msgs on the answering machine. They called me all month and I kept telling them I would not accept their new plans – I had signed a contract for unlimited service and I expected to be kept in that plan. They disconnected my service as the end of June as they promised they would. I went from being a “valued customer” to an “abuser of their network” just like that. Now I’m left with a $200 brick modem, pathetic Satellite Internet service or dial-up (even worse) and no real high speed options where I live.

    TOTALLY TICKED OFF AT BELL!!!!!!

  34. Contract terminated…
    Looks like I am in the same boat. Logon story short, after chatting with the frontline help desk Frank, he clearly said that I am not abusing the network at all. He was puzzled about why termination. Found out that it was a campaign and his team or the frontline did not even notify about that. I went back to the store inquire about the termination and the staffs were puzzle and did not know about that. They got on the phone and they could not do anything too. I am told that I have to talk to the Loyalty department. After several calls, they have not return my call. I used the aircard mainly for surfing and emailing. Funny thing too is I only use it at most 2 to 3 times a month when I needed it most. They went ahead to close my contract because I did not choose another plan. I told Frank that “You do not have my consent to close the account”. Anyhow, I think the next step is to get help from Chris at CTV. Anyone here remember the court case where the Fido guy’s account was closed because he was told that he has abused it and later won the case. I been looking in the internet and cannot find it. Let me know and I can be reached at ruggy_rat@msn.com

  35. US
    …people of Canada, don’t cry, DO SOMETHING, BOYCOTT YOUR GREEDY PROVIDERS, demand a truly unlimited, unmetered internet and data access with good speeds and reasonable prices (USA – 6-12 mbit/s (NO LIMITS) = $25-65/mo including cable TV), remember THIS IS YOUR RIGHTS, if you will keep paying your fees silently and lambast your providers on this and similar blogs, then NOTHING is going to CHANGE.

  36. i got bell mo on mail fruad,sec 381cc and misleading reciept 388cc
    my 75 $ unlimited plan was up for 7 days and i got notice excessive usage, they said they would cancel on the 18 of feb /08, but then billed me over 1200 $$, they dont have the right to create a fruadulent bill, after the fact, the 60 $ plan beneth the 75 UL, was up to 3 or 4 gb, i didnt use over 4 gb on umlimited, im currently having them indicted by the federal crowns office, screw them and they lies, some people will testify bell mo told them over 10 gb on UL was excesive, all bs to force you into other plans.

  37. I live in an area where the only service is dialup or mobile usb stick. as shown on the link below
    http://www.ic.gc.ca/app/sitt/bbmap/eng/01722.html
    bell, telus and rogers say you can get up to 40hrs of game play on usb stick. I’m lucky to get 10hrs. most games of modern day use from 20 to 50KB/s linking below if I play a game like teamfortress 2 roughly 50KB/s I can hit my limit of 5GB just little over 24 hr’s
    http://web.forret.com/tools/bandwidth.asp?speed=50&unit=KB/s

  38. dumb fine print
    That’s the stupidest fine print that I have ever read. I was impressed with the info you provided Wow, thanks for this post! I came across your blog when searching for bankruptcies in canada info and I am glad that I had the chance to read it. Thanks for the insight! I will be back to read more in the future.