Unbundle Yourself: Part 1 - Finding the best Internet Service Provider

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By Ed

I was just out grocery shopping and we are far from being able to unbundle ourselves with respect to winter clothes. I needed boots and a heavy coat and gloves. The "Unbundling" I'm talking about has to do with putting all your services (TV/Phone/Internet) in one basket in order to get a good deal. I want to talk this week about how good a deal you are getting and if, indeed, it is a deal at all.

Maybe it is.  Really. Honestly. If you have looked at your usage patterns: How much phone time you use, what you use the web for, what you like to watch on TV - and found a bundle that honestly costs less than all the other services separately, then by all means: Bundle up.

But if you aren't getting all you'd hoped from your bundle... Let's talk.

Recently, while playing poker (not a frugal pastime when you're as bad at it as I am) with a roomful of well educated, reasonably well informed people, I was blown away by a conversation:

"You have Netflix? Do you have unlimited internet?"
"No, we just watch till we hit our cap, and then wait till the next month"
"Yeah, us too. We have a pretty high limit, but we still have to watch it"
"I want to get unlimited, but it is so expensive"

WHAT! You have a bandwidth cap on your internet? It's so expensive?
 I honestly forgot people still did that. But of course, they, like most people, got their internet as part of a bundle from one of the big Internet Service Providers (ISPs).

Let me introduce you my friends: The Independent ISPs!
  • Execulink - Unlimited Internet from $45/month
  • Sentex - Unlimited Internet from $35/month
(just a couple samples from my area)
Click here to find an Indie-ISP near you

Compare those to:

Bell -Unlimited is a $10 month Add-On to a basic $35/month plan (introductory rate only). Sounds vaguely competitive - but only if you are in a 3 service bundle. To get basic Bell unlimited Internet without a bundle, you would pay over $70/month! Barf!
Remember - all of the prices above require you to get all your services in a Bell Bundle. And Fibe TV - that Wireless TV service that ruined the song "Safe and Sound" for Canadians during the Winter Olympics requires you to have Bell Internet. Cough - anti-competitive -Cough
Rogers - At least lists their prices in "Unbundled" Form - they don't offer truly "unlimited Internet" but... let's pretend that for most people 150GB is pretty well unlimited... $78/month!

Yup - for the price of Rogers cheapest Internet you can have unlimited access from an Indie-ISP!

Convinced yet? I know - it probably took a lot of fancy talk and statistics to convince you that your internet provider was ripping you off. So what next?

How to Break Up with your overpriced Internet Provider

  1. Get a free Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo Email Address: A number of people don't switch ISPs because they'd have to change their email. Don't be one of those people - get an email address you can use forever and take with you when you shop your business around. I am partial to gmail, but I really don't care which one you pick. Get away from your YourName@(Bell/Rogers/Telus).com address. While you still have the old address - email everyone you know and tell them your new address will be YourNewName@Gmail/Yahoo/Hotmail.com. Done. Start using your new address. 
  2. Find an Independent ISP that sells a package you can use. Use CanadianISP in Canada or DSLReports in the US or just Google search for Independent ISPs in your area. Compare what they offer (we get the cheapest 5Mps service and can stream Netflix on multiple devices at the same time, so speed isn't really a huge deal). Sign up. And if you don't like it, you can take your business elsewhere without any bundle concerns.
  3. Enjoy the benefits. In addition to lower cost, we've noticed the following greatness:
      • Amazing customer service- When we call customer or account services, we actually talk to a person. They almost always are polite and know how to help us. They work harder than the big guys.
      • Independent ISPs care - In Canada, the Indies have been fighting for more transparency in billing (apparently they are getting ripped off by the big guys too) and more privacy and rights for consumers.
      • A general peace of mind - You don't have to track your bandwidth usage, you don't have to be chained to one company, you don't have to wince when your bill arrives.

Unbundling yourself isn't easy, but getting an Independent-ISP provider is a fairly painless first step. Have a close look at your bundle "savings" and ask yourself if having unlimited, lower cost internet might not sound like a better deal. Unlimited Internet opens the door to many other things...

Like Netflix.
And Streaming TV.
And Voice of Internet Phone
And Cutting the Cable...

But that is for next time.

Who do you get your Internet Service from? Would you recommend it to others?


  1. What a timely article. As a soon to be cable cutter(I bought a DB4e Antenna Direct because of you guys!) I've spent a great deal of time analyzing what we use and what we pay for. Bundling can be very seducive until you realize you're overpaying for all those individual service. My next target is cell and home phone. Would love to see you do an article on VOIP. I use a Nettalk device but the quality is spotty.

    1. VOIP is the one area I am still unsure about - mostly because I haven't tried it, but partially because it is internet reliant. Most DSL/ADSL internet requires you to have a phone line to run the service through. That phone line needs to be active - so Bell (my phone company) ends up being part of the equation. There is something called a dry-loop you can pay for - it cuts the phone co. out of the equation altogether.

      My other concern is having a phone in a power-blackout emergency. No power = no internet (and often no cell service too). Having my old-time corded phone connected to a live phone line is somewhat of a peace-of-mind deal too.

  2. We get ours from a standard provider, but the key for us was cutting phone and cable. We haven't had a landline for about 3 years; haven't missed it once. Haven't had cable for almost as long. We have missed that a few times (mostly for sports events my son would like to see), but not enough to pay that hefty monthly fee. When he really wanted to see the Rose Bowl, we took him to a sports bar with huge screens. Far less expensive than paying for monthly cable AND we had a great time!

    1. I sympathize with your son re: Sporting Events. I get my fix using Over the Air Antenna service - if you have a newer TV, it might be worthwhile having an antenna on-hand for the "Big Events". We just finished watching the Winter Olympics in HD and it was all via glorious free OTA. No ESPN/TSN, but all the network stuff.

      I am definitely exploring landline-cutting options.

  3. If only this article applied to our location in the north :( The only way we could have a smaller bill is to have no service lol! Still interesting to read though, nice to have you back!

    1. My parents are rural internet users and I know what you mean by not having many (any) options.

      I tried "Timmins" as my search city in http://www.canadianisp.ca/index.php (which isn't the far north, I know). There were 6 wireless Indie-ISPs listed providing unlimited service. Ontera, based in North Bay, had unlimited packages in the $50 range.

      Now, if you lived in Churchill, Manitoba, you'd only have the choice of 3 ISPs, and only 1 (Galaxy - a satellite internet provider) if you lived outside the conventional DSL/ADSL reach.

      You're right though, the only choice feels like no choice. Thanks for posting.

  4. Thanks for doing the research, but my 'north' is much more north and west than Ontario or Manitoba lol! YT to be specific :) I did check your links and although the territories are listed when you click the link you just get a 'Where??' (kidding, nothing actually happens ha ha!)

  5. We've been very happy with Teksavvy for years. We are very heavy users, so get cable Internet at 18mbps with a 300gb cap that we never hit, and we pay $45 a month,tax in. Acanac has similar pricing, but we haven't used them so can't comment on their service.

  6. When it comes to Canadian communication companies Cellcom Communications is the only company with a good customer service.


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