The Best Guide to Cable Packages and Alternatives

Bell Fibe Packages

Bell Canada has introduced its own television service to compete with Rogers and Shaw Cable called Fibe IPTV service.

Bell Canada was for a long time the state-run monopoly on telephone communications in the country. Because of that monopoly, many people had bad experiences with Bell customer service and with Bell services in general. However, Bell Canada has been in competition with other telecommunications services for over a decade now, and their service is now comparable to that provided by other companies.

Bell Fibe is their answer to the increase in cable television. Because Shaw and Rogers control the cable infrastructure throughout the country, Bell decided to go in another direction. Instead, they decided to offer television service over their DSL cables. By upgrading these cables to state-of-the-art fiber optic DSL, they now can provide television as well as the traditional telephone and internet. This service is only available in certain areas of Toronto and Montreal.

But does it work? Yes, it does, and surprisingly well. In fact, you’d be hard pressed to notice the difference between Bell Fibe and traditional cable. The service is stable and is not slowed down by internet use (by you or anyone else), and provides as wide a range of cable channels as any other company.

What is Fibe?

Bell’s Fibe television service is not actually cable, but rather an incredibly fast form of internet service. It isn’t exactly true to say that it is television over the internet, but it is rather television using some of the same technology as the internet. It is called their IPTV service, as it provides “Internet Protocol Television”. Effectively, because internet is now fast enough to watch streaming high definition movies, Bell uses their Fibe service to simply stream television (including high definition) directly to you. Ben Lucier has an interesting discussion of the technology on his blog here.

Because it isn’t strictly internet, you don’t have to worry about download limits, at least for your television service (there is a 60GB cap for internet downloads if you also get internet through Fibe). So, you don’t run into some of the problems you would with a service like, say, Netflix. In addition, your internet and television capacities are calculated separately. This means that you don’t need to worry about the one cutting into the speed of the other.

What Fibe Packages Are Offered?

Fibe separates its packages differently than most companies. There are no tiers. Instead, everyone gets the same basic level of service, and then you can choose a number of “Theme Packs” that provide specialized programming that suits your needs. As a result, you have a number of different options and a surprisingly large number of channel options. All of these packages include high definition stations.

Note, however, that the following prices only apply if you are getting an additional service on top of television. Telephone is the most obvious service to get, as most Canadians get telephone through Bell Canada anyway. However, the following prices don’t apply if you wanted to get only television through Bell. In additional, all of the following prices increase by $5/month after the first year. There is also a $100 installation fee (I’ve never understood why Bell has installation fees; they should be trying to entice new customers) and a 1.5% surcharge for fees to the CRTC (Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission).

  • Starter: This includes the basic networks, including both American and Canadian networks. It also includes a number of specialty channels like Treehouse and Omni. Cost: $33.50/month
  • Starter Plus: This is the basic service. Cost: $54.81/month. It also includes three theme packs, discussed below.
  • Choice: This is the basic service plus seven theme packs. Cost: $69.02/month.
  • Premium: This is the basic service plus eight theme packs and one premium movie pack, discussed below. Cost: $94.40/month.
  • Elite: This is the basic service plus fifteen theme packs and one premium movie pack. Cost: $109.62/month.

Theme Packs

There are a wide array of theme packs available, depending on what kind of television you are interested in. Below is a sample of their most popular theme packs:

  • Entertainment: Channels like A&E and Space.
  • Sports Zone: TSN channels.
  • News and Views: Channels like CNN, Fox News and CP24.
  • Family: Channels like Family, Disney Junior and Nickelodeon.
  • Lifestyle: Channels like HGTV and Food.
  • Knowledge and News: Channels like TLC, BBC and Discovery.
  • Cinema Central: Channels like Sundance and Showcase Diva. Note that this is not a “premium” movie channel.

They also have two English premium movie networks, called The Movie Network and Super Channel (those of you old enough to remember will recall that these were the first two competing movie channels). Despite their names, these are not single channels but packs of channels:

  • The Movie Network: Includes the Movie Network (channel), Morepix, HBO Canada, AMC and TCM.
  • Super Channel: Includes Super Channel (channel), AMC, TCM, CW, Peachtree TV, and WPIX.

Strangely, there doesn’t seem to be any way to get both of these channels, so you will want to look into their programming selection before making a decision.


Bell Fibe is an interesting new service. It provides high quality television over a completely new type of network. In a way it is cable (after all, it does run on fiber optic cables) and in a way it is internet (since it uses internet protocols), but it is really neither. It has a nicely laid out set of programming options that allows you to tailor it to your use and allows you to bundle your television with an experience telephone company. Overall, it is an impressive service, and I look forward to seeing how it pans out in the future.