Volume 94, Issue 51

Wednesday, November 29, 2000


NEWS

Privatization bill takes another step

Internet introduces new domains

Students angry as Bell changes rate without notice

Campus Briefs

Virus' bark worse than bite - Lovebug briefly reappears on campus

Students angry as Bell changes rate without notice

By Matt Pearson
Gazette Staff

Recent changes to the Bell Canada Telephone First Rate long distance plan have many student subscribers feeling it where it hurts – their pocketbooks.

According to Catherine Hudon, media relations manager for Bell Canada, the former First Rate plan offered unlimited long distance service on evenings and weekends for $20 a month.

Hudon said the revised plan, which took effect at the end of September, has placed a limit of 800 minutes on long distance service for the same time period. "This change affects just 2 per cent of plan users. The average usage of the plan is 100 minutes," she said.

For subscribers upset over the recent changes, Hudon highlighted the possible avenues of recourse. "If customers contact us and say there weren't aware of the change, we've provided a two week grace period," she said. "We recognize the needs of students are different and we're currently looking into a number of different plans for customers who use over 800 minutes," she said.

Hudon said she could not provide any statistics as to how many complaints Bell Canada has received, nor could she provide an estimate as to how many people have switched companies. "Ninety-eight per cent of people are very happy. First Rate remains a plan that meets their need," she said.

To students like Jay Mitchell, the First Rate plan no longer suffices. "[Bell] didn't seem to care. They were sticking it to students where the sun don't shine," he said, adding he was notified of the changes when he received his most recent telephone bill.

"We called [Bell] and they said they would send us a new bill, but we haven't received it yet," said Mitchell, a fourth-year psychology student. He also said it was clear to him when he called Bell Canada they had already received a number of complaints.

"For local service, I don't have a choice because Bell has a monopoly. For long distance, I don't think I will ever go back," Mitchell said. He has since switched to Sprint Canada, which is offering basically the same deal that Bell was, he said.

Phil Hartling, vice-president of marketing, consumer and small business for Sprint Canada, said his company is currently offering a long distance savings plan similar to Bell Canada's First Rate plan.

According to Hartling, The Most By the Month plan offers unlimited long distance for $20 a month and there is no cap.

"What we tell customers who sign up, is that the plan is intended for telephone calls, not for fax or internet use," he said.

Hartling said Sprint Canada is pleased to attract former Bell subscribers. "We're very happy to be serving customers and welcoming them to the Sprint team." Hartling said. He also noted Sprint has no plans for a cap on their long distance plan, but he added he could not rule out the possibility, either. "We have to balance customer expectations with company expectations," he said.

"I think the plan is good for students and people with family in different provinces. The whole point behind long distance is to bring families together and we think our plan does that," Hartling said.


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