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This article was published 28/9/2017 (1121 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Almost exactly six months after its friendly $3.9-billion takeover of MTS, Bell has quietly raised rates on just about everything but wireless service.
With the receipt of this month’s bills that are just arriving in mailboxes — and email inboxes — Bell MTS home phone, TV and internet subscribers are seeing modest increases in all three lines.
With little fanfare — Bell MTS did publish a notice on its website on June 30 — and just a vague line on last month’s phone bill, the company indicated that "the price of some home phone plans and features, Ultimate TV and equipment and high-speed internet plans will change as of September 2017."
Home phone charges are up $1.95 per month, TV charges are up $2.95 and internet is up $3.95. That puts the cost of a basic phone line at $36.95 per month, up from $35.15, and basic high-speed internet has risen from to $63.95 a month from $60.
For details on the price hikes, customers are told to see the website, which said: "In order to maintain our quality of service and technological leadership our customers have come to expect, Bell MTS must adjust the cost we charge to the customer."
Calling features, TV packages, fibre-optic network and other services have also gone up in price.
Dan McKeen, Bell MTS senior executive in Western Canada, said such rate increases, which telcos across the country tend to implement on average at least once per year, are driven by additional cost inputs required to continue to operate increasingly well-used networks.
"Telcos and cable companies across the country are faced with many of the same industry drivers," McKeen said. "TV content costs are going up and there is exponential increase in internet usage. It’s not specific to any one provider. They are industry issues."
Bell MTS wireless rates are unchanged. At the closing of Bell’s acquisition of MTS in mid-March, the company committed to leaving wireless rates unchanged for 12 months.
Consumer groups were outspoken about their concerns regarding rate increases during the regulatory deliberations prior to the closing of the Bell-MTS deal.
Gloria Desorcy, executive director of the Consumers’ Association of Canada’s Manitoba division, said, "One thing we were concerned about before the sale was that in provinces where there was even one less regional player, like is the case now in Manitoba, rates were a lot higher. That was certainly a concern."
Desorcy said the worry is that prices will go up and continue to go up.
In fact, there have been three price increases since February 2016 in various products offered by MTS and Bell MTS. McKeen noted that the latest increase was less than the one that occurred in January 2017.
"We understand sometimes costs go up and that is reality across the country, not just here," Desorcy said. "We did a survey before the sale and consumers were concerned about it. Is this the beginning of a trend? It’s probably early days to say that yet."
McKeen said customer reaction to the price increases has been normal.
"We know our customers expect us to provide them with a really high-quality service," he said. "They want the content and they want the internet to work well. The internet is becoming an increasingly important part of their lives."
He added: "The other path — if we don’t do increases and let the service get worse — is not a happy path."
Meanwhile, Rogers, Bell MTS’s main competitor in the wireless market, announced it’s putting up two new cell towers in the city. One new tower is going up in the growing Sage Creek neighbourhood and the other on top of a building at Main Street and Broadway.
Colin Bartlett, Rogers’ general manager business markets Midwest region, said Rogers wants its customers to know about the investments it’s making in Manitoba.
"With the exciting new products we are offering, we need reliable coverage in these areas of the city," he said. "Our customers want reliable service and our network is world-class. We are very happy with our position."
Rogers shares the LTE network in Manitoba with Bell MTS. The two companies both contributed to the $300-million cost of building that network a few years ago.
Martin Cash has been writing a column and business news at the Free Press since 1989. Over those years he’s written through a number of business cycles and the rise and fall (and rise) in fortunes of many local businesses.
Updated on Thursday, September 28, 2017 at 8:11 PM CDT: fixes name in photo caption
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