If you’re not aware, there’s a bit of a tussle going on with regards to internet service pricing here in Canada. Given the situation, I thought I would explore other options - of which there are not very many in Canada, and fewer still here in Victoria, BC.

A like-minded friend recently switched from the local cable internet incumbent Shaw to a new local entrant by the name of Juce Communications. Although only recently started, he’s happy with the service and pricing - and he’s got a thing against Shaw. So, he’s advocating others move to Juce… which brings this story to me.

Juce Overview

Juce, based out of Victoria, BC, currently has two service plans: 25Mbps ($39.95/mo + taxes) and 50Mbps ($79.95/mo + taxes). No bandwidth capping. I believe they have plans to expand to cover most cable-ready regions of BC and Alberta.

Juce is quite upfront about their billing policies (upfront billing), transfer and installation fees in their FAQ section on their site.

If you’re currently with Shaw, then there is a $22 transfer fee, otherwise there is a $79 installation fee (for example, if you switched from Telus, the local DSL incumbent provider). Why the difference? If you’re not with Shaw already, it means you likely need to get the necessary cabling for the modem set up in your house, for one. Additionally, Shaw needs to do some ‘provisioning’ (configuration) of modems on behalf of Juce, so having an existing Shaw account makes this easier, I presume.

I figured it was time for me to upgrade anyhow, so on June 9th I chose the 50Mbps Juce plan.

Signing up

The online signup process was simple enough; I really only got bogged down when choosing which modem to get. I wanted to look up some reviews of their listed compatible models - here are the options Juce provides:

  • I will use my own modem. $0.00
  • Motorola SB6120 DOCSIS 3.0 (Refurbished) $35.00
  • Motorola SB6141 DOCSIS 3.0 (Motorola Refurbished) $49.00
  • Thomson DCM475 DOCSIS 3.0 (NEW) $79.00

I selected with the Motorola SB6141 as reviews indicated it was the best compromise between cost and quality.

That same day I received a few emails: some invoicing/billing related and one with a tracking number for my modem. About two or three days later, I received the modem. On June 13th I received confirmation of my activation window which was to be on June 16th. It’s unfortunate it takes a while to do this, but from my understanding a big part of the delay rests on Shaw’s shoulders (scheduling provisioning, etc).

Both Shaw and Juce deliver services via Shaw’s “last mile” stretch of network. If you’re like me and ordered a new/refurbished modem through Juce, then you simply need to wait for the modem to arrive (sent with a tracking number via Canada Post) and then plug it in, at which point Shaw (yes, Shaw - not Juce) needs to update the modem with a new configuration, telling it to communicate with the Juce network.

If you already have a working, compatible modem, the only thing necessary is for Shaw to update your modem’s configuration to switch to Juce.

And so the wait began.

Activation and Testing

On my activation date of June 16th, I plugged the modem in. In a couple of minutes, it picked up the connection and everything was running via Juce. Literally, that’s all there was to it.

However, the story doesn’t end here. Like any nerd, I load up a speed test website to test the new connection, and I get 21-22Mbps! Remember, I ordered the 50Mbps plan, so naturally I started raging and throwing my stuffed animals around. (Just kidding, I don’t have any stuffies - not in my office anyhow.)

I sent a quick “What’s going on here” email to their support team. Within minutes (awesome Juce!), I received a response explaining that the modem had been sent the wrong config. To correct things, they’d sent a request to Shaw to update the modem to the correct config - and of course, this can take a few days for whatever the same reasons were that you have to wait activate in the first place (Shaw being slow to respond, a backlog in their teams, politics, whatever).

But wait, my bad luck didn’t end there! The new modem (actually, refurbished) dropped the connection entirely. I thought it was something to do with the incorrect config file, but after unplugging it a few times, I still had no luck. Another email to the Juce support team (at 11:30pm)…

In the morning (June 17th), I got a reply from Juce saying they would send someone out to poke around for problems. The rep was courteous and apologetic on behalf of Juce - thank you! He got the modem working again, ran a speed test which showed speeds around 29Mbps - for the current 25Mbps plan, that was pretty good! He said that they “over-provision” to ensure customers get a good speed experience.

Shortly after, the modem dropped the connection again. Frustrating. At this point it was looking to be the modem itself - likely just a dud. The rep pulled another identical modem out of his bag and hooked it up - while it wasn’t provisioned (no config file yet, meaning it couldn’t provide a connection), the blinky lights showed more promise. The rep confirmed it was showing more promise than the initial modem, and said that he’d leave it in place and put in the request with Shaw to have it provisioned (and with the correct speed of 50Mbps this time).

Within two hours (still June 17th), I received an email from Juce support saying that I can plug the modem in, it will get provisioned and I can start hitting the internet over Juce’s pipes. They clarified that it would still be at the 25Mbps speed until Shaw updated the configuration - which could take a few days as mentioned previously. I ran a quick speed test and saw 29Mbps - same as the rep when he had been here - so definitely more promising a start. It hasn’t been long, but observationally I think it was a dud modem. I can’t blame Juce for that. I can credit them with timely support/response times, however!

Conclusion

Throughout the changeover, I hadn’t cancelled my existing Shaw account. I wanted to give Juce a spin for a day or two and then cancel Shaw if things are smooth. I’d definitely recommend this approach to others considering this switch - I wouldn’t consider it as necessary if you were using your existing modem (you know it already works, after all) however.

The 25Mbps/50Mbps mixup may have been caused on either Juce’s or Shaw’s end, whether miscommunication or straight up error. Juce took care of me, however - they issued a refund of $10 to my account without question or prompting. That is more than you can say about many businesses out there.

Overall, even through the difficulties I’ve encountered, I’m impressed with how Juce - a small and young company - has performed. I truly hope that they aren’t squashed by the incumbents’ political moves (trying to price out “last mile” resellers). You should read that article.

Edit, June 20th: My modem has been reconfigured with 50Mbps. Initial speed tests show 58Mbps down, 3.5Mbps up - solid performance overall. Although the faster speeds are nice, I doubt my usage patterns require it so I’ll likely drop down to the 25Mbps plan in a few days to save some cash.

Notes

For reference, my existing Shaw service was an old 25Mbps plan (definitely capped), which doesn’t seem to be publicly available anymore. It was costing me $67/month + taxes - about $75/month total.


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James is a Canadian living on Canada's west coast. Interested in tech, code, startups, and being awesome. Leading tech efforts at ChatterBlock, OneWed, and SeafoodX. Top-notch Dad, subjectively speaking.

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