Canadian DSL customers are living with the illusion of choice when it comes to their ability to choose the modem they use to connect them to the internet. Bell currently offers exclusively the Bell Home Hub 1000 and 2000 modem/router devices as options for their customers. Similarly, the Bell re-seller Teksavvy offers a selection of Bell approved modems/router combo devices with much the same functionality.
These modem/router combos provide users with everything they would need to connect to the internet, and share that connection to devices throughout their house. These are the best choice for many customers who know little about technology and want only simple functionality. These customers don’t want to spend too much on equipment, don’t need a complex setup, and don’t have their own existing network hardware. The structure of Bell’s modem policy though, poses a serious problem for those customers that don’t fall into one of these customer groups.
Bell offers a wide range of internet services across a series of network protocols and which require a range of different devices to connect to them. Access to these services is made through the rental, rent-to-own, and outright purchase of modems. While the purchase, and rent-to-own policies are not perfect, they do at least provide some return on investment compared to a basic rental. Unfortunately, in some situations customers are forced to rent the modem. By providing no lasting value to the consumer this rental policy coerces customers into staying with Bell to avoid losing what they have paid in modem rental fees.
The inclusion of router functionality in the devices ties customers into being reliant on Bell rental hardware. Customers that become reliant on this router aspect would lose that functionality if they move to another providers, which disincentivises them switching away from Bell. With already outrageous costs imposed by Bell when moving between ISP’s this is just another added cost and not actually the added value that Bell claim it is.
One of the reasons that Bell, and by extension the policies they enforce on their re-sellers, chooses to only offer modem/router combination devices is so that they can restrict their technical support policies. Bell is able to make the argument that the hardware they provide is sufficient to access their service by making the devices they provide capable (at least to a degree) of performing all the necessary networking functions one needs on a home network. Through this rationale they restrict technical support to just the hardware that they provide. Anyone using their own router is forced to do so outside of the support of the ISP. This is almost always a loss for the customer as even the worst home routers tend to be far superior to what is found in the Bell device. Accommodating Bell’s required use of their equipment involves migrating some functionality over to the less than stellar Bell device.
With expensive modem rentals fees on cheap hardware providing lucrative revenue for Bell it is hardly surprising that they are unmotivated to transition to more lenient modem policies, 3rd party router support, or providing the option of a simple bridge modem.