Eastlink Injects Itself into the Internet Experience of its Customers

After having used Aliant (now Bell Aliant) as my Internet service provider (the term high-speed is useless in its relativity) for several years, I switched to Eastlink – the only alternative. My service with Aliant had been fine, but due to some bizarre Internet-topography, to get from my house (on Aliant’s network) to my office (a ten-minute walk down the street, but on the Eastlink network), packets were routed through Chicago (a 4,000Km+ round trip).

Having now been an Eastlink customer for a few years, the service has been similar to Aliant, in that it works fine, and I don’t really have to talk to them.

Some time last week, though, Eastlink began to stick its nose into my Internet browsing. They introduced a “service” they call Search Manager that picks up any mistyped host-names, and rather than leaving it up to your client (Firefox, etc.) to decide what to do when you request a bad host-name, they displayed an Eastlink-branded, Yahoo-powered, Google-look-a-like search results page.

From their Eastlink’s FAQ on the service:

Q. How does it work?
When a user mistypes an internet address or types a request for a non-existing website in the browser, our service will present you this page. The objective of this service is to present a page that can assist you in reaching your destination on the internet.

It doesn’t sound like such a bad idea. However, most web browsers now deal with a bad host-name quite well. Firefox, for example, uses Google’s “I’m Feeling Lucky” to turn a request like “Prince Edward Island” into an immediate jump to the Government of Prince Edward Island website. Eastlink has broken this feature of Firefox.

Of course, they also show ads on these search results pages (pages I never asked to see). Again, from their FAQ:

Q. How much do I pay for this service?
This is a free service. You will not be charged for using this service.

Of course it’s free. Eastlink is making money on it with ads – even though I already pay a healthy monthly fee for my Internet service.

To their credit, Eastlink does make it relatively easy to opt-out of the service. However, I find this “on-by-default” setup that requires me to opt-out to be an inappropriate intrusion into the content that flows through their network.

When I contacted Eastlink to complain about the service, I clearly stated that I understand how to opt-out (and already have), but that I wanted to register my complaint that the service exists at all. Eastlink’s customer service group responded by telling me how to opt-out. For bonus points, the response came from do_not_reply@corp.eastlink.ca. This is a bit like answering a question for a customer at a store, and then running away before they respond.

I’ve since contact Eastlink again with my complaint, and will share any pertinent updates here. If you are also an Eastlink customer, I would encourage you to contact them and complain.


5 thoughts on “Eastlink Injects Itself into the Internet Experience of its Customers

  1. Yuck. That sort of thing really gets up my nose too.

    I know you’ve opted out, but perhaps switching to something like OpenDNS would be worthwhile. It provides some of the “benefits” they offer, minus the commercial slant, plus all the advantages of using their network for DNS lookups independently of your ISP. It’s free too, incidentally.

  2. Looks like they’re trying to follow Rogers lead. They’ve been doing that for about a year. You’re opted out for as long as you leave the cookie on your drive. I’ve thought about hosting my own DNS right on my PC to ensure that I’ve gotten past it.

  3. Tony beat me to it, but I second OpenDNS. I switched to them over a year ago and it’s been great. They have a similar search results page to Aliant (it’s how they make money), but it only displays when they can’t correct the typo. It definitely has more of a “don’t be evil” vibe.

  4. So is there something in the config that you can delete to stop it from taking over my address bar search?

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