Telus vs. Shaw: which should you choose for home Internet?

UPDATE: We have now a 2014 edition of this guide.

A post in the Techvibes forum back from early 2004 asking which was the better Internet service provider remains Google’s top search result for “Telus versus Shaw”.  For most British Columbians that is the main battle when examining out options for Internet service providers.  Telus and Shaw.  ADSL versus cable.  That forum thread, as pretty much everything on the Internet, turned into an argument and while reading through surprisingly I didn’t see Godwin’s Lawcoming into effect.

What the thread demonstrates is that there are passionate people on either side of the argument. It also shows that with either company there’s stories of great customer service or completely awful treatment.  Unfortunately the nature of companies of this size is that sometimes you’re going to have a wonderful experience and sometimes you might be left wondering how neither the wrath of God or man have not smotten everyone associated with the company.  To narrow it down we’re looking at the wired home Internet options.  Telus, as well as companies like Bell and Rogers, offer a wireless Internet option built off of their cellular networks and while that might make a good future blog post right now we’re focused on contrasting Telus’ ADSL and Shaw’s cable high-speed Internet.

I compare the two Internet big players on price, speed and customer service. 


It’s all about the Bordens: price

Price should actually be the easiest thing to compare between the two companies, however modern marketing means that trying to get a true picture of what you’re going to be paying is a weird shell game.  Both companies offer introductory price plans, which are the prices that they actually advertise.  A quick glance would suggest that for Telus’ High Speed Turbo you’ll be paying $22 a month, while Shaw’s comparable High-Speed Extreme monthly rates will clock in at $19.95 a month. 

The trouble is both of these great deals are only for the first six months.  What gets even more frustrating is that the best plans are generally available only when you bundle services.  Shaw gives $10 off a month after the first six months if you have at least one other service from them while Telusgives $5 off if you bundle services.  There’s also free gifts and other things to complicate the picture.  With a three year internet contract with Telus they’re offering a low end laptop (HP G61) while Shaw has no similar offer.  It’s going to be up to you to decide what works best for you price wise.  For myself I rely on a Rogers cell phone, but have cable television through Shaw and so their bundle works best for me. 

If you’re not going to be bundling services you’ll save $5 a month going with Telus’ top end High Speed Turbo versus Shaw’s High-Speed Extreme.  Shaw does have the advantage of greater selection, with four levels of plans versus’ Telus’ three.  The extra plan with Shaw is their High-Speed Warp package which is an extra 10 Mbps a second faster, but that we’ll deal with next.


88 miles per hour and beyond: speed

The ADSL versus cable speed argument seemingly has no real answer.  There seems to be an argument that I’ve heard from a number of sources that ADSL has an advantage in that the connection is not shared, and thus the traffic of those Internet users around you does not affect your own speeds.  Cable’s speeds, the logic goes, changes based on the time of day and usage in your area. 

Taking the two companies’ advertised prices at face value, we’re once again at a point where it’s hard to tell the difference.  Shaw has the higher top speed, with their High-Speed Warp package that offers 25 Mbps, while Telus’ top speed plan tops out at 15 Mbps, though you do pay extra for that speed.  Other than that their promised speeds are comparable. 


Don’t look back in anger: customer service

Customer service is the hardest aspect of the Telus versus Shaw question, since it’s so subjective.  One bad customer service representative can ruin a customer’s relationship with the Internet service provider for years.  One great customer service representative can make up for almost any wrongs.  The trouble is that in companies the size of either Telus or Shaw the variety of people you’re going to be calling into talk to is pretty vast.  From my own, completely subjective, experience Shaw customer service has been great and Telus’ was not bad when I used to have a land line with them. 

There are horror stories with both companies, and often the best advice if you’re having a hard time dealing with someone from either company is to just hang up and call back later.  Speaking with someone new, and when you’ve had a chance to cool down, often can do wonders.


The final verdict: the best and the worst

I was intending on having a real clear winner, and to be honest I thought it was going to be Shaw.  Shaw is really the answer if you need speed, and their great number of pricing tiers do offer flexibility.  Telus will save you a little bit of money if you’re not going to be bundling your services, though it’s important to remember that the prices plastered in bold all over either company’s ads are not the prices you’ll be paying after your first six months.

So what do you think?  Have one of those Shaw or Telus tales of terror?  Have you found another Internet service provider that beats both of the big guys?  Let us know in the comments.