Review of TekSavvy DSL/VDSL (2007-2019)

HiVolt

Junior Member
Staff member
I've recently cancelled my TekSavvy ADSL/VDSL service, which spanned nearly 12 years. I had ADSL service from 2007-2012, and VDSL service from 2012-2019.

It started in 2007, when Bell started their capping and throttling. At the time I believe I was with Bell Sympatico for approximately 5 years. Though TekSavvy has been in business for many years before, first as dialup then as a DSL provider using Bell's GAS service, they were just starting to gain traction as an better alternative as other DSL ISP's of the day, like IGS, Golden Triangle (I dont remember the others).

TekSavvy started offering an unlimited usage "login" only service for $10, to those who were affected by Bell's 60GB cap. You were basically able to use this to change the login in your modem or router, and download all you wanted and not get charged the overage fees (more than $10's worth) on your Bell account. I signed up for this login service on April 7, 2007. This lasted for about 6-12 months maybe, and then Bell started pushing back, effectively ending the sale of logins only services. Later in December 2007 when Bell started throttling torrents to 30KB/sec, I left Bell and officially switched my service to TekSavvy, Things went well until a few months later Bell started throttling the services of all 3rd party ISP's who leased their lines. There was nothing to be done at that point except use VPN's, which were not common services offered like they are today.

But someone on the DSLR forums had discovered, that by using a little known relic from the past of dialup, called MLPPP (Multi Link PPP), which had a purpose of bonding dialup lines, one could defeat the Bell throttling, in addition to bonding multiple DSL lines together. Bell was starting to roll out its faster FTTN ADSL2+ speeds at the time, but they were not allowing them for the 3rd party ISP's until many years later (same problem we have with Fiber now).

Homebrew solutions from DSLR forum members resulted in the famous Tomato/MLPPP firmware for the WR54G line of routers, and the rest was history. TekSavvy embraced this method around throttling and supported this as it evolved, as well as fighting Bell and at the CRTC level, without much success for the first several years of this throttling & Bell trying to push UBB (Usage Based Billing) to match what they were selling at retail, mostly 60GB/month.

Big change came around 2012, when the UBB pressure was overcome by the government of all entities, and Bell's UBB threat was dead. But another monster emerged from those regulatory fights, CBB (Capacity Based Billing). The CRTC was bamboozled by Bell, and approved extremely high CBB rates per 100MBit, that the ISP's would have to pay as a whole for their users downloading habits. This meant that all ISP's including TekSavvy had to raise prices in order to remain somewhat profitable, and were for the first time able to offer the FTTN speeds, including faster ADSL2+ and VDSL services.

I upgraded to 25/10 VDSL service in 2012 at over double what I was paying for ADSL service, but that came at a good boost in speed which was needed. However, it came with a horrible caveat. VDSL subscribers had to rent a modem from Bell, because due to Bell's choices of FTTN Stinger Remotes, there wasn't any readily available modems that could work. The first modem rented was a CellPipe 7130, and it had a horrible sync-no-surf bug, with no fix coming. I managed to acquire a newly released Bell modem from a Bell tech I knew, a Sagemcom Home Hub. That was initially promising, for the first month or so that I used it (in early 2013) it was actually stable. But Bell made changes to either the firmware of the modem or the Stinger FTTN remotes, which caused this modem to start rebooting randomly at various times, sometimes twice per day. This was another blunder. I eventually found a modem on eBay with the same chipset as the Bell modems and Stinger remote, a Lucent chipset. This modem was actually stable, and I used it for several months until about August 2013, when TekSavvy's competitor, Start.ca announced they were bringing a new VDSL modem to market with Bell Stinger compatibility, a then unknown to Canada brand SmartRG SR505n. Immediately I inquired with TekSavvy to see what their plans were to bring this modem to market, but they had no plans at the time, so I arranged and purchased the modem from Start.ca and it was like a miracle, in bridge mode all the problems went away. It had good sync speeds, maintained 50/10 sync for months/years in some cases.

There were a few significant wins for TekSavvy and other 3rd party providers since then, the CBB costs were slowly reduced, and TekSavvy had actually lowered the costs of many packages in its services lineup over the years. I had very little trouble with my services over the nearly 12 years, but I had the living within close distance to the Bell equipment, and the phone lines are buried so they weren't affected by much.

CRTC decisions were made a few years later to allow 3rd party ISP's access to Bell FIber, but we are no closer today than we were 3-4 years ago, although there may be a glimmer of hope now that the embattled Liberal government has given the CRTC a nudge, a policy direction change, to make more customer friendly decision that encourage competition, vs the "whatever the market will bear" policy direction of the past. We'll see.

In the end, the big change for me came at the end of March last year, when Bell's Fiber went live a few months before on my street. 50meg VDSL just wasn't cutting it for me and my family, especially since we cut the cord by cancelling Rogers TV a few years earlier, all the media and entertainment was from the Internet. TPIA Cable wasn't an option, because the Rogers infrastructure in m area stinks, the shallow underground buried cables were damaged several years ago in a Toronto Hydro underground conduit upgrades, and further damaged by the Bell FTTH installations, and Rogers hasn't redone it, just patchwork of temp lines swinging from trees.

So last year I took an offer from Bell, at the time it was Gigabit Fibe for $80+ tax, which was $150 price with a $70 credit for 1 year. Worked out to about $90 after tax. I kept my VDSL, I downgraded it to 15/10, hoping I can transition it into FIber after the Bell deal expired, because I wasn't going to pay $150+ tax.

However, no movement whatsoever was made in the year of getting us close to TPIA fiber, and Bell actually reached out to me before my 1 year expired (Odd, I know) and offered the same price I was paying essentially (after the $5 price increase which took effect a month ago), with an ongoing non expiring $20 credit, the Gigabit Fibe is now $105 - $20 credit, so it works out about $95 after tax. So I took it, it's not a contract so I can cancel anytime, and cancelled TekSavvy via a post in the DSLR Direct Forum. I gave them a brief explanation as to why, as a courtesy, but got no response from the people I've dealt for years, just some rookie CSR whose name I had never heard of handled it, professionally though, and I'm supposed to get a cheque for the balance of what was left on the account.

In the end, the past couple years, TekSavvy just hasn't felt the same way as the once did. I understand the company grew big, but they grew big because dedicated users like me and others propelled it forward, spread the word. I remember the days of Rocky actually giving me a call on a few occasions and asking for an opinion and saying thanks for helping on the forums. When Marc took over for Rocky, it was a little different but he was also quite engaged with the unwashed masses for quite some time, but that started changing a few years ago where he was barely visible, and last year he quit DSLR. This left a deep void for many of us, who counted on the fact that we could always get the CEO to see and hear what's really going on, albeit for them it wasn't always easy as there were always trolls and unreasonable entitled pricks picking fights - apparently Marc had enough of it, and I can't really blame him.

And since then, it seems to me at least, that TekSavvy has somewhat become a cookie cutter ISP, following in the footsteps of others by eliminating the various usage options on the faster tiers like they had for the longest time (200GB/400GB/Unlimited) and the forced bundling of dryloop whether you need it or not, and forced renting of a modem whether you want it or not - though they call it a loaner, but no doubt the price of it is included. I realize that these are easier options for most people, but they said that this is it, you can't optionally remove some of those features and reduce the price. It's one size fits all.

I am not leaving a bitter customer, I had excellent service right until the end, but I'm just a little sad that the TekSavvy I joined years ago (and some of you as well), is no longer the same. When the time comes that FTTH is available for a reasonable price, I'll consider returning, but I'll also weigh my options as well.

Sorry if this was a little long, but this was a long experience for me!
 
Top Bottom