NCF DSL Review

[May 2014 – I can no longer recommend NCF as an ISP, please see the comments on the post for a link to an updated article]

The National Captial Freenet (NCF) is the 3rd ISP I’ve had high speed service from.  Originally not having cable, I chose the Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) solution and went with Bell who provided my phone service.  I might still be with them had it not been for Magma changing the rules on their dial up email account causing my address to expire, so switching to Magma (which was bought by Primus) for highspeed allowed me to keep my email address active.  I don’t have much good to say about Primus.

With Bell, I was stuck on the 1Meg Nortel modem for a long time.  My neighbourhood had been upgraded to use the newer higher speeds, but due to my ignorance (and Bell’s lack of information) I kept paying the same premium cost and getting low speed.  Until I found out things had been better for many of my friends on DSL and called Bell to upgrade.  It was a free upgrade, but annoying that it took me calling to get it to happen – I also had some interruption in service in the switch-over.

Calling Bell customer service was always frustrating, you had to run through the standard script – only to get yourself passed along to the next level where you might get someone more informed.  I had an intermittent problem on the line and it was impossible to get help from them.

When I moved to Magma, the switch was smooth on their end.  Bell continued to charge me for my DSL line for a couple of extra months, even though I wasn’t using their services.  A huge thumbs down on Bell’s billing department.

Magma was a great company, and using their technical support I was able to get my intermittent line issues sorted out and fixed.  Sadly, now owned by Primus there is in my experience terrible customer support.  As a Magma customer I was grandfathered over to Primus, but apparently didn’t have full rights as a Primus customers (my customer ID wasn’t even a real Primus one).  After a 20+ minute wait on hold just to talk to someone, I ended up in a frustrating conversation which took at least another 20 minutes to determine they couldn’t give me the service I wanted (DSL + static IP) at a competitive price.

Ages ago, my Dad had pointed me at NCF offering high speed at a very reasonable rate.  I probably should have made the switch a long time ago, but I convinced myself into thinking that maintaining my email identity @magma was worth the extra cost.  Ken had also had some success with Magma as an ISP, but I suspect my recent success moving away from them will help convince him to make the leap too.

Signing up with NCF is done online, similar to many ISPs today.  They do support switching from another ISP and their website recommends a week or two of overlap to avoid losing service.  I cut things a bit fine, but the switch-over looks like it has gone ok (knock on wood).  There was a small mess up with the start of service date, to which I got a fairly detailed email reply promptly – included in that note was the line “any further questions, just give us a call” followed by the office number.  On a whim, I dialed it up to check on one more detail – and was astounded to hit “0” and almost immediately talk to someone.  Better still, they knew what they were doing – and could answer my question right then and there.

As I already own a DSL modem and line filters etc.  The only thing I needed from them was service.  I was able to switch over before my Primus account had expired, and today marks the official start of my NCF service.  When I initially switched (June 25th) I did some speedtests to see how things were.  On Primus/Magma my speeds were consistently 2500kb/s down and 650kb/s up.  On the 26th, switching to my new DSL login on NCF – I wasn’t surprised to see the same numbers.  Today I checked my speed again.  WOW!  4400kb/s down and 650kb/s up.  Maybe its a fluke, but I’m hoping it isn’t.

Summary – NCF offers DSL service for $29.95 a month, no contract.  There is no speed cap, so up to 5 Mb/s down, 800 Kb/s up (max).  They offer static IPs for additional cost.  It is run by people who know what they are doing.  This not-for-profit organization deserves your business.

11 thoughts on “NCF DSL Review”

  1. great review!! I too love NCF. and don’t forget, we have 200 GB of bandwidth per month before you have to pay, I don’t know what Bell is now, but when I had it 5 years ago it was 40 (I think)

  2. So I just performed the speedtest to Montreal on my current Magma (or Primus) account. 4292kb/s and 661kb/s so seems pretty comparable.

    I too seem to be some phantom Primus user, I can’t disable my Spam filtering because they don’t know who I am. My current payments are $58.27 including a static IP but mostly because I’m grandfathered for that, Primus doesn’t even offer it. Even if I kept a static IP I’d save around $234 a year. Seems worth it.

  3. It does seem to be the way to go. Now I just have to pick-up the phone and cancel that videotron scam (29$ for 2gb and crippled speed)

  4. In terms of crippled speed – all DSL in Canada eventually goes over Bell’s lines, and Bell is apparently throttling bit-torrent and other file transfers (torrents I can confirm). So NCF DSL suffers from this throttling – but generally the speed is good.

    If you want crazy fast, Rogers extreme is nearly 2x what I’m getting – but for quite a bit more money.

  5. I’ve been using NCF for 2 years. I love it! My parents and inlaws use Bell. I’m now at the point I refuse to “fix” their computer until they switch to NCF. I have only ever had two problems, 1. the line would cut out (to fast a speed when fist installed) fixed in under 30 min and 2. my router went wonky after a year and NCF replaced it hassle free. Customer service is A++!! HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

  6. Primus can’t provide the service they advertise.

    I get a max download speed of 1.3Mbps when paying for “up to” 7Mbps. This has been going on ever since I signed up in Sept 2008. They have admitted they have a “saturation problem” in my area, are working on it, but can’t estimate when the problem will be resolved. They have also stated other people in my area have the same problem.

    Since they won’t release me from my contract without penalty and will not warn you of the service problems when you sign on, all I can do is try to prevent others from making the same mistake. Primus advertises “up to” 7Mbps downloads and believe there is nothing wrong with providing less than 25% of what was promised and are not interested in keeping their customers happy. I believe Primus will go out of business in the near future as current customers leave and potential customers are educated about Primus lack-of customer service.

  7. This is a great good review, we have been with NCF since 2007 and love it!

    I think you let Primus off lightly, though. We were with Primus dial-up twice – once intentionally and then we switched to Cyberus, which Primus then bought out. If Primus had improved their service hugely they might have got it up to “abysmal” with a lot of effort. They sent us dozens of leaflets every week for two years advertising DSL at a very good price, $21 per month. When I called them I got to talk to someone in India, who didn’t speak much English and who finally admitted that the service wasn’t available in my area at that price but at $69 per month instead. They deserve to have no customers.

  8. I don’t know why there are so many positive reviews with NCF. I had been paying for 6 weeks of it and never had a someone come to make the connection. This may be a problem with Bell Nexxia but everytime I ask NCF to contact Bell Nexxia to make the physical connection the installation guy does not show up or call to say he wont be able to show up. Now I received a call from NCF saying that there is no access in my neighbourhood. This is bs if you ask me since I live in an established neighbourhood with uptodate telephone lines in downtown Ottawa. This is the second (and final) residence I have tryed to install NCF DSL. I just hope they will refund the $195 they have charged me thus far (modem + service fee + 2 months svc).

  9. Shpoonk – sounds like you’ve had a pretty bad run with NCF DSL. I’ve included your comment as I think it helps balance out some of the other peoples experience.

    The NCF is run by volunteers for the most part and a very small staff. They try their best, this means there will be some problems. Expecting a full refund is probably impractical – they will have incurred some charges paying their suppliers (even if the service wasn’t really delivered). Keep in mind the NCF is a non-profit organization.

    For what it’s worth – with the introduction of the HST the monthly costs have gone up with the tax increase.

    The NCF service is effectively the same as Teksavvy – and if you are looking for more customer service then I’d recommend you direct your business there. Teksavvy offers both cable and DSL.

    My experience with NCF continues to be positive. The cost is reasonable, the speed is good, uptime is high (but not perfect) and it provides me with a static IP address – something I can’t get on cable.

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