Charge irks residents
Bell Aliant spokeswoman calls billing to expand local calling ‘permanent change’
Upper Island Cove less than thrilled by an ongoing charge to their monthly phone bills for Community Calling.
If a long-distance plan makes all numbers provincewide free to call, why would one still need to pay $5.75 per month for calls to-and-from a neighbouring exchange to be deemed local?
That’s an argument being made in Upper Island Cove, where one resident with a Bell Aliant bundled package for phone, cable television and internet is sick of paying the extra money to her service provider.
“A few years ago, I knew it was happening, but you sort of forget it,” said the woman, who did not want her name to be published.
She recently contacted Bell Aliant to make some changes to her service.
At that time, she asked about the $5.75 charge, which the company refers to as Community Calling. It allows the 589 exchange for Upper Island Cove to be treated as a local exchange in Carbonear and Harbour Grace. It’s charged on a monthly basis.
“We don’t need that anymore — it’s obsolete,” she told the Compass. “We have packages on our phones. We have long distance for free. A lot of people have cellphones now, so we have nationwide calling on that. So basically, we’re paying $5.75 per month for a service that’s obsolete.”
According to a spokeswoman for Bell Aliant, local governments initiate Community Calling requests with service providers in order to expand local calling, adding this can only happen after a customer ballot vote is held.
“This process was completed with full regulatory oversight by the CRTC (Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission), and was identified as a permanent change to our network and to local calling service in these communities,” the spokeswoman said in a statement emailed to the Compass.
The resident who spoke with the Compass believes the charge has gone on long enough without being questioned for its necessity, adding its necessity should be reviewed.
“It’s like you don’t even have the right to take it off because it was voted on 20-something years ago,” she said.
She also acknowledged the charge wouldn’t be applied if she went with another service provider, though she’s reluctant to switch due to the quality of other services included in her bundled package.
“I was told by someone in Upper Island Cove that if you phone Bell and complain, they’ll take it off, or you threaten to switch users. But I didn’t threaten that,” she said, adding the person she spoke with from the company said every resident using Bell Aliant’s phone service would be charged.
Upper Island Cove Mayor Philip Lundrigan said a resident came before council about a year ago to address the same issue. George Adams, who was the town’s mayor at that time, wrote a letter to Bell Aliant and later met with representatives of the company.
“In not so many words, the response was that if you’re not happy with the charge, you can take your business elsewhere — there are other providers,” Lundrigan said. “They have you over a barrel.
If you want their service, you have to pay the fee.”
The town also received a response from the CRTC about the matter. The CRTC said it would only get involved in reviewing this sort of predicament if the area was served by a single service provider and fees deemed unnecessary or excessive were known to be charged.
According to Lundrigan, Bell Aliant surveyed its customer base about the possibility of making calls to Carbonear and Harbour Grace local in exchange for a fee. At the time, people found it to be a desirable service and voted in favour of the Community Calling charge.
“If a survey were done again, they’d likely get a response that says, ‘No, we don’t want the fee anymore because we have free long-distance calling,’” the mayor said.
The Bell Aliant spokeswoman noted the Customer Calling charge is part of the basic local service charge and not part of a long-distance plan.
“The basic local service charge for customers in Upper Island Cove is the same or lower than in communities without Community Calling,” she said.
The resident who spoke with the Compass has been in touch with some provincial politicians and the town council about the matter and intends to contact the CRTC about the matter.
This $5.75 per month charge for Bell Aliant customers to make calls to-andfrom Carbonear or Harbour Grace local doesn’t sit well with all residents.