While Rogers, Telus and Bell have agreed to temporarily waive home Internet data overages for those without an unlimited data plan, rural customers so far are out of luck.
Dufferin-Caledon Member of Parliament, Kyle Seeback, is voicing his concern for constituents, with some seeing their rural internet bills as high as $900, he says.
According to Orangeville, Seeback said “This is unacceptable,” adding “not only is it not helpful during this time to have these gigantic bills people are receiving. Quite frankly, it is unCanadian.” He wants Rogers, Telus and Bell to waive overages for those in remote communities.
“Do the right thing and immediately start waiving data overage charges for people in rural communities,” said Seeback.
Customers in rural communities rely on wireless hubs and sticks for internet, which rely on cellular networks for data. The Big 3 previously said unlimited internet access was not possible due to the strain it would put on wireless networks. This means rural customers are facing high data overages, although some have been granted temporary relief.
“Right now, customers in the rural parts of my riding are getting bills in excess of $500, $600 and even $900 for internet service at home,” said Seebeck.
Bell previously said it was giving 10GB extra data and $10 bill credit to customers using Turbo Hub, Turbo Stick and MiFi units for internet.
Rogers previously told the Globe and Mail, “We are not able to offer unlimited data on our Rocket Sticks at this time, as this may create undue pressure on our network in rural and remote areas, impacting our first responders and essential services.”
Telus recently gave rural residential and small business customers doubled data, up to 1TB per month, along with flexible payment options, for those on Smart Hub plans.
Seeback says these moves are not enough by the telecoms, as his email inbox continues to hear from rural residents facing high data overages.
“Many companies have stepped up to do the right thing in this crisis and you should too,” he added, saying “Bell, Rogers, Telus and others, do the right thing.”
Smaller ISPs Increasing Prices for Customers Due to COVID-19
In a separate call for action, Calgary-Nose Hill MP, Michelle Rempel Garner, is also demanding the federal government to do more as smaller ISPs are facing tough challenges during then COVID-19 pandemic.
“At a time when everyone is being required to work and attend school at home, it is no longer a choice to have a reliable and affordable internet connection. Yet, frozen wholesale rates are forcing Canada’s smaller internet service providers (ISPs) to hike prices, lay off staff, may ultimately have to close shop, and may have to cut service off to existing customers,” said the MP.
Independent ISP, TekSavvy, is being directly affected right now. The company had to lay off 130 employees to stem off losses and also hike Internet prices for customers, with a $5/month increase coming May 1.
“Under capacity based billing (CBB), smaller internet service providers pre-purchase the amount of network capacity that they expect to need to serve their retail customers from the big telcos. Since the rates are usage based, the increasing demands on the servers caused by the need to work from home mean that ISPs are now paying astronomical fees to the big telcos to use their networks. If these ISPs are forced to close shop, thousands of Canadians may have to go without internet,” said Rempel Garner.
As the coronavirus pandemic continues, Internet usage at home is only going to keep rising. For smaller ISPs and those living in rural areas they’re in tough situations with no end in sight.