Aliant, my local phone provider at home, is making some changes to their “PrimePak” packages, and this prompted me to take another look at the Eastlink (my cable TV provider) phone offering. All I want is basic dial tone, one “calling feature” (call display), plus long distance. Here’s the current math for the local service:
For long distance, Aliant charges either 17 cents/minute for Canadian calls, or, with a $2.95 “network access charge,” 13 cents/minute daytime and 10 cents/minute evenings and weekends.
Aliant has a variety of other long distance plans, including one that offers 1200 minutes for $25.00 (with an additional $2.95 “network access charge”), which works out to about 2.3 cents/minute. One of the limitations of this plan is described in this FAQ on their website:
Q: How do I know if I have used up my 1200 minutes evening and weekend minutes or 200 daytime minutes? A: We are not able to provide you with the amount of minutes you have used until your bill is printed. One of the ways Aliant offers such low rates is by not driving a lot of cost into the product. Providing this type of information would be very costly. You may wish to track the number of minutes you use. If you do go over your free minutes, you still receive an exceptional per minute rate of $0.10 per minute evenings and weekends.
Eastlink uses a complicated-seeming system wherein they promise to “compare the top three advertised long distance plans and bill you the lowest of the three.” The added complication of Eastlink is that they won’t let you pay for long distance on your regular phone bill: you have to set this up separately as a pre-authorized cheque withdrawl or credit card payment, something that eliminates, for me, any of the “cable and telephone all on one bill” benefit.
This whole “network access charge” thing is new to me, but it appears to be a conceit that all of the long distance providers are using. Here’s how Sprint Canada describes their $4.25/month fee:
It is a monthly contribution from all customers to a fund that helps offset the cost of maintaining and enhancing the networks of telecommunication companies.
Funny, I thought that’s the per-minute fees were for!
I’m thinking that the best solution for staying out of this long distance hornet’s nest might be to simply move to Eastlink for local service (saving $72/year), and then routing all the home long distances calls through VoicePulse Connect over the Internet at 3.3 cents/minute with no monthly charge.