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Which Provider Has The Best Internet Service In Nova Scotia? How Much Speed Do You Really Need?

This tech story was submitted by Jordan Schelew and written from his experiences. Jordan is Founder & President of Websavers, a Halifax, N.S. based web hosting company alternative to GoDaddy and HostGator. While the competition reads from scripts and hope your problem matches, Websavers provide insightful and data-driven answers to every question sent their way.

How Much Speed Do You Really Need?

From all the billboards, it seems we’ve got an abundance of Internet Service Provider (ISP) options here in Nova Scotia. What most don’t know is that a good chunk of these providers like Purple Cow and Citywide are reselling the big internet provider’s lines at a lower price and typically with lower speeds. That’s a benefit for price-sensitive buyers, but there are some cases where using a reseller can be more frustrating than the lower prices justify.

Who has the lines?

The only two residential ISPs in Nova Scotia that maintain their own network of lines throughout the province are BellAliant and Eastlink. BellAliant provides fibre to the home for most households while Eastlink provides fibre to the neighbourhood which then converts to standard copper cable lines running into your home.

The only truly notable difference between the two big guys is their upload speeds. Eastlink offers 350Mbps download / 10Mbps upload and 1Gbps download / 15Mbps upload, while BellAliant offers 500Mbps download / 500Mbps upload and 1.5Gbps download / 940Mbps upload. You’ll notice Eastlink’s upload speeds are a lot slower than BellAliant’s. Yet even those that think they need the higher upload speeds rarely do. Upload speeds won’t affect your Netflix binging, Internet browsing, nor YouTube watching, and they likely won’t affect your gaming since that almost always comes down to latency rather than speed.

Here’s a few examples where the faster upload speeds provided by BellAliant are most likely to come in handy:

  • Uploading videos or large quantities of high res photos to a cloud storage service or backup service – this will happen faster with a higher upload speed.
  • Streaming live to the Internet in 4k (requires 25Mbps) or in lower resolution from multiple devices at once.
  • Frequently sending large files like 30+ minute videos to friends.

What do you mean by reseller?

You might now be wondering how companies like Purple Cow, City Wide, Netfox and the lot of them provide Internet connectivity without lines. They lease them through a reseller of Eastlink’s lines called Frontier Networks.

For those that don’t require the higher speed connections provided by the big two, these resellers provide cheaper options that can get the job done. Their telephone support can be just as good as the big guys for basic requests like cases where you need to reboot your modem or adjust a setting in the configuration.

However, there is one big caveat to this is: if you encounter a problem with the actual lines running to your residence, resellers are often dismal at ensuring necessary line repairs actually happen. This makes sense as they’re a couple steps removed from the company that owns and maintains the lines – Eastlink.

Why do people think these speeds matter so much?

When you sign up for any of these providers, they often provide you with a modem/router combination (we’ll just call it a modem for simplicity) and the wireless signal isn’t great, particularly in larger or older homes, causing slow speeds. But that slow speed is a result of your phone or laptop connecting to the modem and not the actual Internet line speed from your modem to the Internet provider.

To make matters worse these modems often don’t have the hardware resources, and sometimes software efficiency, necessary to handle transferring data between dozens of devices and your ISP.

This results in people thinking their ISP is slow, when it’s actually their modem to blame. Yes, the modem is provided by the ISP, but the ISP rarely helps with these kinds of issues, so you need to take matters into your own hands.

You can do that by purchasing a $100 dedicated router, connect it to your modem, and ensure all of your devices are switched over to the new router’s wireless. (Don’t cheap out on the router, otherwise you’ll be in the same position as before). You will likely notice the difference immediately. This is often a far better solution than using repeaters all over your household. Have a larger house? Buy a router with more antennas. Extra benefit: if you switch Internet providers, you don’t need to reconfigure your wireless on all your devices. Just plug your router into the new modem and away you go.

Tech tip: configure the modem’s DMZ/Passthrough to allow all traffic through to your router. This isn’t required, but it can make some apps work better.

What about rural Internet?

I’m afraid I don’t personally have a lot of experience with this, but I can relay some of the info I’ve heard from friends and family that have used rural Internet options. Generally speaking, you’ve got these choices that utilize either satellite or cell towers:

  1. Xplornet 100Mbps/1.5Mbps satellite service (though most seem to get <50% of these speeds)
  2. Starlink 150Mbps/2-10Mbps satellite service
  3. Seaside Wireless 25Mbps/5Mbps max in some areas, 10Mbps/1Mbps everywhere else. Uses cell towers.

Will they work well for you? It all depends on your proximity to Rogers cell towers for Seaside wireless, and your line-of-site and angle to the satellites that Xplornet and Starlink operate. Your best bet: ask a neighbour who they use and see if they’ll let you test it yourself. Just be sure you’re close to the modem/router and it’s been freshly restarted before you test.

Who’s the best ISP in Nova Scotia?

I’ve used 4 different providers over the past 10 years, and I’ve have had better Internet reliability with BellAliant’s FibreOp than any of the other providers, yet I’m currently using Eastlink because of poor customer support from BellAliant.

Does this mean Eastlink support is perfect? No. Is it easy to get their techs to come and make the necessary fixes to the lines if there’s an issue? Also no… if you get the right support tech on the line and the right line-tech at your door, then you’ve won the Internet repair lottery, no matter who the Internet provider is. But the odds are tilted more in your favour if your ISP is the same company that owns the lines.

So, what’s the conclusion? Who’s the best Internet provider in Nova Scotia? That comes down to your requirements.

Best Internet Provider for the most reliable connection: BellAliant, but if you’re in a house and run into problems, prepare for a switch to Eastlink

Best Internet Provider for content creators: BellAliant if your content is video or high res pics. Any other types of content and you can pick any ISP and you’ll be fine

Best Internet Provider for gamers: Eastlink. Simply put: they’ve got less hops to Quebec and the US than BellAliant, resulting in lower latency. Latency is the delay that occurs when users request web resources. It represents the amount of time required for data to travel between the sender and receiver.

Best Internet Provider for a household of 8+: BellAliant – the upload bandwidth might be key.

Best Internet Provider if you want reasonable customer service: Eastlink or a reseller – ask your friends if they’ve reached out to their ISP’s customer service before.

Best Budget Internet Provider: Any of the resellers, BUT if you want reliable tech support as well, I’d go with Eastlink’s entry plan because it’s only marginally more costly than the budget providers, and you’re more likely to get better tech support if something goes very wrong.

This tech story was submitted by Jordan Schelew and written from his experiences. Jordan is Founder & President of Websavers, a Halifax, N.S. based web hosting company alternative to GoDaddy and HostGator. While the competition reads from scripts and hope your problem matches, Websavers provide insightful and data-driven answers to every question sent their way.

What do you think?

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