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Ottawa Gal was the first to point to the ongoing Bell Canada traffic throttling scandal. Now, “Have you checked your Bell Canada bandwidth lately?” - she asks. Because if you’re the type to use, or come close to using, your allocated (you thought) bandwidth, there’s a good chance you’ve over-paid, she says, going on »»» Thumbing through the regular telecom forums, I came across a few posts that caught my eye. Referenced below, they centre on how Bell Canada is apparently playing with peoples’ bandwidth, failing to give them what they’re paying for. But before I get into that, let’s first establish the known criteria of Bell’s bandwidth policies.Knowns: Bell improperly throttles user accounts, claiming it has no choice.1. Users get 60 gigs of bandwidth usage per month (note, the actual allocated bandwidth is different for different packages. In this article I focus on the standard 60-gig package). Bell Legal Reference (terms and conditions): http://www.bell.ca/shopping/popups/personal/internet/legal.jsp?serviceId=Performance2. Ontario users pay $1.50 per additional gig (rounded up). Quebec users pay $2.50 per additional gig (rounded up). Bell Legal Reference (terms and conditions): Same link as above (#1) for Ontario. For Quebec charges, change location on the Bell site to QC to set a cookie and refer to the same link, http://www.bell.ca/shopping/popups/personal/internet/legal.jsp?serviceId=Performance Or refer to, http://service.sympatico.ca/index.cfm?method=bandwidthMonitor.plans3. The company recently told the CRTC [Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission] the sophisticated Bell DPI (deep packet inspection) equipment (which is capable of so much) was installed to track the bandwidth usage of alleged bandwidth hogs, 5% of customers who, Bell claims, use P2P file sharing applications to the detriment of everyone else. Link, file, and phrase: http://www.crtc.gc.ca/public/partvii/2008/8646/c12_200815400/1006810.zip File name: The Companies_CRTC_8_ABR.docAs explained in detail in its Answer to CAIP’s (Canadian Association of Internet Providers) Application dated July 11, 2008 (see in particular section 8.3), even though Bell’s DPI equipment was ostensibly installed to introduce usage data collection functionality for Bell Wireline’s usage billing, it was later discovered it was also being used for traffic shaping to supposedly reduce peak period congestion.4. The Bell bandwidth tracker has a 60-hour (2.5-day) delay before a user can view his or her actual usage. Now we’re familiar with Bell’s usage and tracking policies, let’s get into what’s happening with the complaints in Bell Canada’s internet forum, and on the Bell forum on DSLreports.com. People say they’re not getting their 60 gigs per month as promised, as advertised, and as sold to them. They’re complaining that at the beginning of each month, instead of starting at zero, the bell bandwidth meter kicks off with some arbitrary number left over from the previous billing cycle. People say because of a huge three-day delay in updating the bandwidth tracker, they don’t really have any idea of exactly how much bandwidth they’ve used, or not used, or even what’s left for their month.The following scenarios arise: Problem 1Scenario 1: Bandwidth Trackers Gone Crazy. Paying Bell customer doesn’t get the 60 gigs per month (or doesn’t get the 60 gigs per billing cycle) as advertised by Bell. If a user has used 30 gigs of bandwidth with three days left on the bandwidth tracker, users assume they have 30 gigs remaining for use. So they use it. But the 30-gigs they think they have left may actually be less since Bell’s bandwidth tracker is a solid three days behind. Since it’s three days in arrears, the bandwidth tracker may only calculate 10 or 20 gigs as being used in the balance of the month and may then carry over whatever was downloaded on the second last day of the billing cycle to the next month. So the user never gets the full 60 gigs and the new billing cycle starts off with, say, 20 gigs as having already being used on day one of the new billing cycle. And that’s down to the huge delay in calculating and displaying used bandwidth.Scenario 2: Based on Scenario 1, paying Bell customers don’t get 60 gigs per month (or don’t get 60 gigs per billing cycle) as advertised by Bell on the second billing cycle because the bandwidth used in the first one wasn’t counted or reflected on the paying Bell customer’s first month. It shows up on the next billing cycle so in effect, the user once again doesn’t get benefit of the full 60 gigs on the second billing cycle since part of cycle 1 has been transferred to cycle 2.Scenario 3: If customers aren’t aware (and many aren’t), they assume they can use 60 gigs on the new billing cycle. But if they do, they’ll be dinged for a total of 80 gigs (using the same 20 gig example above). This will then cost them bandwidth over-charges at a rate of either $1.50 or $2.50 per gig.Scenario 4: Because of the very first billing cycle (Month #1), people who use 60 gigs per month never actually get 60-gigs per month. Instead, they’re wrongly and improperly charged for using more than 60 gigs because of the carry over caused by the 60 hour delay in the bandwidth tracker.Scenario 5 (If you’re the type to exceed your 60-gig bandwidth limit once in a while). Bell has a $30 maximum charge if you exceed bandwidth limits. If you go over it one month, you’re supposed to be charged a maximum of $30. But let’s say you used 100-gigs of bandwidth in December. You figure you’ll pay the max of $30. Right? Bzzzzzt. Wrong! What can happen is: whatever Bell’s defective bandwidth tracker counts will be added to your next bill, based on its three-day delay and the balance it didn’t include will then be added to your next billing cycle. So in effect you could end up paying double the cost ($60) for what should be a maximum of $30, since you’ll pay for two months of overages instead on one (Month 1 may not carry the full amount of bandwidth used, and then put it on month 2, as people are reporting). In short, Bell isn’t giving you what you pay for, what you bought, what’s advertised, what’s calculated, and what you’re billed. Instead, it’s double dipping and getting great financial rewards from the thousands of users who aren’t aware (Bell claims more than two million high-speed internet users).Problem 2 - Bell’s Email notification Tracker of Bandwidth usageBell also has an email notification system to tell you when you’ve reached certain level of bandwidth usage. But it, too has apperently gone wild. Did you expect anything different?! It reports you’ve used 90% of your allocated bandwidth usage when you haven’t, and also it doesn’t report your bandwidth usage when you’ve reached a certain threshold. Bell’s reply to one user in their very own Bell forum who went over the bandwidth without the Email notification and waiting for a reply for three-weeks from Bell for the answer was: (refer to: http://forums.bell.ca/viewtopic.php?f=14&t=628) “The results of the investigation have come through. Currently there is no billing defect with our bandwidth tracker.” The Bell Forum member replied: What does billing defect mean in Bell speak? Billing defect to me means a link between the bandwdith counter and overage charges. Our dispute has more to do with the actual counter itself and its accuracy, or possible lack of accuracy. Also as one member mentioned, having bandwidth randomly rolling from one period to the next causing unforeseen overages. And then the customer stated again (note, Bell broke his topic up into two different topics): (Refer to: http://forums.bell.ca/viewtopic.php?f=14&t=653) I’m not sure if it needed an extra topic or not. I was just championing the cause for some people that posted questioning the reliability and accuracy of the bandwidth tool. That included the issue in the original post by mark related to the way the bandwidth was rolling over into the next month causing him to have 40Gb in one month and 70 in the other for example. However I’m not exactly clear with that Alexander said about the results of the investigation. I’m not sure which investigation it is, nor does the response “Currently there is no billing defect with our bandwidth tracker.” tell us much about the outcome of said investigation. Hopefully some more clarification can be provided. Indeed. This raises many concerns of what people have over paid over the past long while (since these complaints have been around for a long time. Over a year). Bell replied: What I meant by “no billing defect” is that there is no defects with the tracker or any billing charges associated with the trackers results. Oh. So it’s this person’s imagination. And many others are in the same boat!? Does Bell Internet come with free crack cocaine? Must be a user imagination problem! If a user uses 30 gigs two days or one day before the month’s end date, why does it show up on the new month, in the process robbing the person of their full 60 gigs? What happens if someone isn’t aware the bandwidth will be added to the new month, even though it was used on the previous month? They get billed for it. End of story. But according to Bell, that’s not a problem. I’d have no problem either if I could charge Bell up to $2.50 per gig of fictional use on a month. The customer once again states the facts: (same reference: http://forums.bell.ca/viewtopic.php?f=14&t=653) What that leaves us with however is that there is still an issue with the way the bandwidth is tracked and updated at month end causing rollover into the new billing period when the amount should have been applied to the original billing period. There is also lingering still the issue with the bandwidth notifications that I have raised and am looking forward to hearing the outcome of this one. I think Bell needs to really straighten themselves out on this matter. It seems as of late there are a lot of questions being raised about the validity of the bandwidth tracking tool. This is especially imperative when you charge excessive fees for overage and have customers on capped plans. How can customers reliably budget their bandwidth usage when the tracking tool isn’t accurate? All of this can be reviewed at these links:http://forums.bell.ca/viewtopic.php?f=14&t=653http://forums.bell.ca/viewtopic.php?f=14&t=543http://forums.bell.ca/viewtopic.php?f=14&t=628Additional problems reported by Bell customers in regards to the bandwidth tracker which charges enormous amounts to you (even if you never did exceed your bandwidth):Additional linkshttp://www.dslreports.com/forum/r21721338-Upload-usagehttp://www.dslreports.com/forum/r21758418-Internet-I-used-13-Gigs-in-a-day-OOhttp://www.dslreports.com/forum/r21622463-Internet-Bandwidth-Usage-Discrepancieshttp://www.dslreports.com/forum/r21141262-Internet-Usage-Monitorhttp://www.dslreports.com/forum/r21117983-question-about-bandwitdhhttp://www.dslreports.com/forum/r20891251-Have-You-Purchased-Your-Usage-Insurance-Plan-YetWho’ll get their money back?PIAC, CIPPIC, the Quebec Consumers Union, and others have been asking for a look at Bell’s bandwidth usage since the start of the neutrally debate. Since there’s such an apparent wide-spread problem leading to Bell over-charging customers on bandwidth for absolutely no reason except due to their faulty and defective problematic trackers, one must ask: Who’ll stick up for all these people who’ve been over-charged? Who’ll get their money back? Who’ll investigate this? Maybe someone can send this off to PIAC, CIPPIC, and the Quebec Consumers Union? The Quebec Bell customers are worse off at $2.50 per gig! .... Ouch! Will there be an impartial investigation into this Bell problem of over-charging people at a rate of 1.50$/gig for Ontario and 2.50$/gig for Quebec that has been going on for a very long time now?Bell stated the initial purpose of the DPI equipment was for tracking bandwidth ONLY. But there’s a rumour going around it’ll be used to track the bandwidth of wholesalers. How will Bell’s sophisticated DPI gear be used on wholesale customers, if or when this happens? Meanwhile, people who’ve been over-charged in the past, or will be in the future, should be making their voices heard in Bell’s own forum and demanding a credit or contact one of the consumer unions.