Over a year ago, we signed up for Bell's Internet TV service (IPTV), Bell Fibe. Judging from my blog stats the post I wrote on it last year was rather popular. Bell has certainly been marketing the service more lately.
Since last year, there's been improvements to the service and my experience with customer service has changed, so I thought I'd update the post.
First, Bell promised me two years of free PVR and two TV receivers, but then after one year renegged on this after one year. Of course, Bell doesn't put anything in writing, but I have notes from my conversations. After endless calls to Bell's customer service which is extremely painful in how unhelpful they are (this comic describes the pain of dealing with Bell's customer service perfectly), they offerred me a pretty good deal going forward, but refused to rebate me the fees I feel they fraudulently charged me. Rather incurring more pain in dealing with them, I accepted their offer. But, once my various contracts are up, I'm switching providers based entirely on this treatment.
Fall 2012 Update: I had more problems with Bell's customer's service when we moved and tried to get Bell Fibe at our new place. Without exaggeration, Bell's customer service is the worst I have ever dealt with. Please see my updated blog post on Bell's bad customer service before considering Bell.
Since we signed up there has been occasional buggy or down reception. I would say that this is happening less frequently over the past few months. It is rare that the service is down for more than an hour and very rare for it to be down a few hours, but it has happened at least a couple times in the last year. I have never got a rebate or any sort of proactive notice from Bell when the interruptions are more lengthy outages.
Search & Guide
Users can search by program or actor up to two weeks in advance. At first, I thought this was great, but it doesn't take long to get to know when and which network a fav show is on. It was more useful when we had a free trial with a gazillion channels as I could quickly find Xena playing somewhere at any given moment. A serious flaw, however, is that the actor info for shows only lists up to four actors. And the actors listed may not necessarily be the leads or stars. Frankly stars are the only ones who anyone would search for, so this often negates the value of this feature.
Their tv guide feature seems standard to all tv services now. Listings include title, plot synopsis, date of production, rating, and cast. Similar to the search feature the few actors listed are not necessarily the stars and could unknowns playing bit roles. They have a genre search (e.g. news channels, family, movies, sports, etc.) which makes it easier to browse similar channel offerings, which is nice but is probably more useful for new customers or house guests.
The guide allows one to add and then browse by favourites. A feature they don't have that I have seen and like is colour coding of channels based on channels one gets and doesn't. We have to manually remove the channels we don't get up from our guide, but this means they don't show up at all so we don't know when a channel is offering a free preview.
I like the ability to have the main screen stay open and have another mini-screen appear on the bottom. Also, one can browse the guide and see a mini-screen of a channel without actually having to go to that channel. I'm not sure if these features are standard on other services but they are definitely great for channel surfers such as myself.
I'm not sure if satellite or cable offer this feature, but I really like Bell Fibe's parental controls. I can quickly set the tv to block my kid from seeing inappropriate stuff while we channel surf. The blocking is based on ratings, however, so they are not foolproof. We can easily unlock by show or for a block of hours by entering our four digit passcode. It also blocks the pay-per-view and video-on-demand service, which is great as my 7-year-old already knows how to pull these up and is enthralled by them.
At Christmas for the past couple years, Bell special channel with games, music, countdown, and links to holiday programs. We loved this, but they haven't had anything else like it subsequently.
Bell Fibe's pricing structures does not appear to be significantly different than other services. One cannot completely custom order channels despite Bell's claims of this. One has to get a certain high and expensive tiered service before being able to order a-la-carte. Their channel packages, as with other services, are ridiculously expensive and bundle a ton of crap with a few good channels. Video-on-demand is also expensive at $8-7 for new releases and $5 for really old movies. Their VOD offerings, and preview functionality, works great.
On Demand TV
They have a lot of TV shows available to view on demand. Great for when we forgot to PVR them.
Since we have had the service, Bell has been rolling out more Internet-enabled features. One can program their PVR via the Internet or mobile device - great in theory, but I can't imagine a urgent need to suddenly and unexpectedly need to record something.
I like their web apps. Facebook and Twitter apps are a fun way to share what you're watching and provide commentary. As I post my photos to Facebook, I really like using this app to provide a quick and easy slideshow. The Weather Network app is also handy, as it quickly pulls up a full local forecast as well other weather info.
As an introductory offer, I'm getting a PVR for free for 3 years. The PVR has been amazing - and has been the real game-changer for how we experience television. Bell Fibe's service integrates really well with the PVR and all the tvs in the house. As Bell states "set, playback, manage your recordings and pause and rewind live TV from any TV in your home" - this is easy and well-used in our house.
I don't have extensive experience with cable or satellite options, so
overall to me the determining factor on whether or not I'd renew my
service is price. But as Bell continues to roll out more apps and web-enabled features this may prove a determining factor for me in the future. I'll keep you posted.