[National Capital FreeNet / Libertel de la Capitale nationale] NCF: Ottawa's not-for-profit alternative
to commercial internet providers

High-Speed DSL Internet Access

DSL ('Digital Subscriber Line') technology gives you high-speed internet access via fiber optics and copper.

Find out which DSL services can be added to your land-line:

Phone number: (10 digits, no spaces)

or can be provided to your address:

Province:  

Apt/Unit
Number
(leave these blank if there is no apt/unit)
Number
Street name
Street type
Direction
City
Postal code

(to determine which DSL services are available)

DSL from NCF

NCF's purpose is to support people of Canada's national capital region in enjoying the benefits of the internet. NCF is governed by its members (including you, after joining), and is a not-for-profit alternative to commercial internet providers. We appreciate your support, please join us. (The more members we have, the more we can do for members and our region, including lower prices.)

No set-up fee for Freedom 6/300 plan 
Please select from options below:
Type Select 'residential' unless this DSL service will be for a not-for-profit organization or for a business (as defined by Bell Canada).
Speed
(up to)
How fast is fast enough? Streaming video needs up to about 2 Mb/s per stream. See below ('Speed/Usage' tab) for details.  
Usage
per month
Usage
per month
How much is enough? It depends on what you do and how many people are sharing the connection. No worries, you can get more later if you need it; see the 'Speed/Usage' tab below. Unlimited usage
Need
dry DSL?
DSL is carried to your location by 'telephone' lines. If you are already paying for land-line telephone voice service, select 'No'.

Otherwise, select 'Yes' to get a line with no telephone service. For more information, see the 'Dry DSL' tab below.

Need a
static IP?
Most people do not need a static IP address.

Normally your computer is assigned a different IP address each time your DSL connection is established (an IP address is a unique routing address on the internet.) This is fine for normal usage (email, web surfing, etc), but if you want to run your own servers then it's best for your computer to be known by the same address all the time; you want your IP address to stay the same (be static) for every connection.

Price of selected options:
(Please select options) $0.00
Monthly$0.00
  • monthly (no long-term contract)
  • no hidden charges or promotions
  • no refund for partial months
  • use VISA or MasterCard to sign up

Use the 'Check now' button above to enable the Sign Up button

(please select choices for all options, above)

Why is NCF so inexpensive?

NCF's rates for DSL are low because NCF is not-for-profit (no shareholders to pay), we don't spend oodles on adverstising (we rely on word of mouth), and members help members (lower help desk costs). And the more NCF members using DSL, the lower our prices can be -- so please tell your friends about DSL at NCF!

DSL Background

DSL service involves several layers of businesses, starting with Bell Canada, the company that owns and operates the fiber optics network to your neighbourhood 'node' and copper wires to your home. Bell's wires carry voice and/or internet signals between you and a central office in your neighbourhood. Other companies connect voice and/or internet signals between central offices. Finally, others provide services such as help, internet services (like email) or entertainment (like NetFlix). No matter who you pay for DSL and service plans, underlying it all are the same copper wires carrying DSL and/or voice signals, operated by Bell Canada at a price regulated by the CRTC.

Commercial for-profit DSL service providers typically spend a lot on marketing and advertising, and pay profits to shareholders -- and therefore need to charge a lot.

Bell Internet is an example of a commercial DSL retailer. Both NCF and Bell Internet purchase DSL from Bell Canada; you get exactly the same DSL in either case. Bell Internet charges a substantially higher monthly rate and includes services such MSN 'HotMail' -- but the DSL part is exactly the same as offered by NCF.

So don't worry about from whom you get DSL -- it's all the same, at the line speed level. The only performance difference to think about is the quality of the network used by your provider to connect the neighbourhood central offices to the internet, which affects your response time and throughput -- these are monitored by network engineers.

The speed of the DSL service depends on the length and quality of the wire between your residence and the neighbourhood telephone office. If you are too far away or the wires to your location has quality problems, the speed you experience may not reach the target speed.

DSL works by adding an internet capability, leaving a voice channel always free for voice. With DSL, voice and internet are always available, even simultaneously; you can use your telephone and computer(s) at the same time.

What do I need?
DSL Modem ('Gateway')

DSL requires a 'DSL modem' at your end. A DSL modem usually includes a router in one small unit that attaches to your phone line using a regular telephone jack, and connects to your computer via ethernet, USB, and/or wireless (USB requires a problem-prone software driver, so we prefer ethernet or wireless). Most computers have an ethernet port, but if you need one, you can buy an inexpensive ethernet card at any computer shop. Modems usually have one or four ethernet ports, allowing you to connect one or up to four computers to the DSL. Modems are easy to use, and include a firewall to help protect your computers from hackers.

Modems are available pre-configured and ready to operate from NCF. The table below lists the models that we offer. You just need one. The number of ethernet ports determines how many computers you can connect simultaneously to the internet by ethernet cables, and the model with wireless can also connect (multiple) wireless computers.

There are two types of DSL modems: DSL2+ and VDSL. If the upload speed of the DSL plan you select is more than 1 Mb/s, you must have a VDSL modem. If your plan's upload speed is 1 Mb/s or less, you can use either type (VDSL might make sense even for plans that don't require it if you think you might upgrade your plan later).

DSL2+ TP-Link 8816 $63 Modem with one ethernet port More info
TP-Link 8951ND $98 Modem with four ethernet ports plus wireless More info
VDSL Sagemcom 2864 $129 Modem with four ethernet ports plus wireless More info

If you have a stand-alone router, it is possible to operate the modem in 'bridge' mode, as illustrated below, but we recommend using an integrated router (as in modems that have four ports and wireless); it's less complex, more reliable, and involves one less power transformer and box.

As a router As a bridge 585

Second-hand equipment is sometimes available -- check NCF's DSL Equipment Buy/Sell discussion group for current listings (requires login; if you are not yet an NCF member, you can register).

Phone Line Filters
[a DSL filter]
A DSL line filter

DSL requires filters for your phones to block line noise that would otherwise slop from the internet channel into the voice channel. You need to filter all devices plugged into your telephone wiring (e.g., telephones, answering machines, fax, 56k dial-up modems, etc.) except for your DSL modem. The filters are easy to install -- just plug the filter into a telephone jack and then plug the telephone into the filter.

Line filters for your telephone(s) are available from NCF.

Line filterGentek BB0001, $5 each
Where Your Payment Goes

Most of your monthly payment goes to Bell Canada for DSL, and small pieces go to the network provider and to NCF (used to pay for staff, computers, and an office). Bell Canada is a for-profit corporation regulated by the CRTC. NCF is a not-for-profit organization, directed by its thousands of Ottawa-area members.

General questions

I currently have DSL from Bell and want to switch to NCF. How do I do it?
Do I get backup dialup access, as well as DSL?
I'm planning to drop my land-line and only use a cellphone. Can I still get DSL from NCF?
Can I get Business DSL?
I currently have cable internet from Rogers. Can I use the modem I already have?

Billing/account questions

When are my payments made?
Are there any other monthly fees or costs?
What happens if my payment bounces or is late?
How do I pay?
What if I want to cancel?
I have a problem with my bill. What do I do?
What happens if I use more than 300 GiB in a month?
I'm moving. How do I maintain my NCF DSL service?
I love what NCF is doing, what can I do to help?

Sharing your DSL with neighbours

Can I share my NCF DSL with neighbours?
How would I share my DSL?
How do I monitor our shared usage?
Are there privacy concerns with sharing?
Are NCF office people able to help me resolve home network problems?

Technical questions about NCF's DSL

After I've signed up, how do I get set up?
How do I get help?
Do I have to buy a modem from NCF?
How many email addresses can I get?
Can I run my own servers?
Can I get a static IP?
I'm planning on changing my local telephone (analog voice) service provider. How does that affect my DSL service?
I can't get online. What do I do?

Dry copper DSL questions

What is the difference between A, B or C band?
Will I be able to use a voiceband modem, eg., 56 Kbps computer modem, over dry copper DSL?
Will I be able to send or receive faxes over dry copper DSL?
Will I be able to use VOIP with dry copper DSL?
Will my home alarm system work with dry DSL service?

About DSL

How fast is DSL?
Is 300 GB per month enough? How much is 'normal'?
Why is having a DSL modem with built-in router better?
How does DSL compare with cable internet? Or Bell's Fibe service?
My phone line is rotary dial, not tone. Is that OK?

About NCF

Why sign-up for DSL from NCF?


General questions

I currently have DSL from Bell and want to switch to NCF. How do I do it? The key to minimizing downtime is to plan ahead at least a week. Pick a date for the switch of service (perhaps at the end of your contract with your current provider, or the end of a billing period). Cancel with your current provider, and ask them what will be the last day of service. Then, when you sign up with NCF, enter this date in the sign-up form ('end of service date'). We'll do what we can to ensure service starts on that day. It's important to make these arrangements at least a week ahead of the date.
Do I get backup dialup access, as well as DSL? Yes, your NCF account entitles you to dial-up access too -- see this overview page for more information.
I'm planning to drop my land-line and only use a cellphone. Can I still get DSL from NCF? Yes, you can drop your land-line, use only a cellphone for voice, and then get DSL (only) on your land-line for high-speed internet. That's call 'dry DSL' and lots of people are doing it. Click here for more information.
Can I get Business DSL? Yes, but only for non-commercial or non profit organisations and costs more than residential dry or regular DSL ('business DSL' is DSL over what Bell classifies as a 'business line'.) Please phone the NCF office at 613-721-1773 for information and to sign up.
I currently have cable internet from Rogers. Can I use the modem I already have? Rogers offers you internet over your cable wiring. NCF's DSL uses your telephone wiring, so you'll need to have a DSL modem, not a cable (or DOCSIS) modem.

Billing/account questions

When are my payments made?

Payments are made monthly, about seven days before the day-of-the-month on which your service first started (the 'activation date'). For example, a person who signs up on the 10th of the month and has service activated on the 15th (their 'anniversary day') would have their credit card charged on the 8th of each month.

Payments are processed seven days in advance so if there is a processing problem, we'll have a bit of time to contact people to resolve the problem (otherwise we'd have to interrupt service).

The first payment is processed when you sign up. The first month of service starts usually a few days later, on your activation date.

Are there any other monthly fees or costs?

Tax applies to DSL service (HST for Ontario residents, GST for Quebec). Also, though rare, people who exceed the monthly free bandwidth may be billed for the extra bandwidth. Please see "What happens if I use more than 300GB in a month?" below.

If you want your service moved (eg., from one location to another), or if you change voice service provider (eg., Primus to Bell), there is a $25 charge. If you change during the first month the type of DSL service (eg., 'dry' or 'regular'), there's a $25 fee.

What happens if my payment bounces or is late? If your payment 'bounces' (is rejected by your bank) or is late, it causes work for NCF's office staff to straighten things out. To cover this effort, NCF will add $10 to your bill. Please make sure you have sufficient funds in your account, etc.
How do I pay? MasterCard or VISA for sign-up, then we encourage people to switch to pre-authorized debit (to help NCF reduce bank fees).
What if I want to cancel?

Just contact us (best by Office Message from the NCF Help page, but alternatively by phone, email, or mail). We need five business days to close a DSL account, so do call us at least a week before your "monthly anniversary" date to avoid being billed by our billing system for another month's service. You will continue to have service until your current paid-for month ends. Note that to keep things simple, we don't refund for partial months and we cannot cancel during your first month of service (since we start setting it up when you sign up).

When we receive your cancellation, we'll send a confirmation email for your records -- if you don't receive a confirmation email, assume that we did not receive your request to cancel and we will continue to bill the monthly fee.

I have a problem with my bill. What do I do? Give us a call at the NCF office at 613-721-1773.
What happens if I use more than 300 GiB in a month? Three hundred GiB is a lot of use in a month. However, if you need more, you can get it, by contributing $5 to raise your limit in chunks of 25 GiB. If you find yourself regularly using more than what's in your plan, you can arrange to automatically add blocks of usage, in 25 GiB increments, to your monthly payment.
I'm moving. How do I maintain my NCF DSL service? Please contact us a week in in advance so that we can verify availability at your new location and arrange the DSL installation. You may lose DSL service for a few days during the move. The fee for work relating to the move is $7.50 or $25, depending on the type of line and move.
I love what NCF is doing, what can I do to help?

The best way to help NCF do more and get better is to donate or volunteer. NCF relies on support from its members. Donations to NCF help provide internet access to others less fortunate, and help to improve NCF internet services. You can donate online at the NCF donation web page; you can arrange monthly donations there as well (many members donate monthly).

Another good way to help is to tell people about NCF. The more people using NCF, the less it costs per member.

Sharing your DSL with neighbours

Can I share my NCF DSL with neighbours? Yes, NCF encourages members to share their DSL with their neighbours. NCF believes that cooperation among neighbours helps make Ottawa a better place.
How would I share my DSL?

Three neighbours might share a single high speed DSL connection like this: We'd like everyone in a sharing group to become NCF members (even if only a free, StartPage-only member). One member subscribes to NCF DSL service and purchases a DSL modem with wireless capability. The subscribing member could connect computers to the router using ethernet cables, and all parties (typically within 60m and often farther) could connect using wireless. Each computer accessing the DSL modem by wireless requires a wireless card (most laptops have them built in, otherwise inexpensive add-ons). Wireless security is built-in, and access control can be by password and/or wireless ID (modems typically allow you to limit connections to only computers that you specify). Each family could contribute $10 to the member paying for the service and everyone would have high speed access for a price not much higher than dialup.

Usage charges would apply only if total usage exceeds the monthly free usage amount. It's up to you and your neighbours to manage that. Generally most families use much less than the monthly free usage.

How do I monitor our shared usage? Usage is tracked by most DSL modems. Also, NCF has a DSL usage web page that can display your usage. However, both of these usage measures will only tell you the total usage by your DSL line; they are not able to list usage by computer, for example, within your home or shared network.
Are there privacy concerns with sharing?

Here's one way to think about it -- if you have configured your computer to be safe on the internet (eg., by using a firewall), it should be no less safe when it is connected to a router shared with a neighbour.

However, if you enable file or printer sharing on any of your computers, you need to think about how to do that without losing privacy.

The ideal candidates for sharing are neighbours who each have only one computer (and thus no need to enable file sharing), each with their own firewall.

Are NCF office people able to help me resolve home network problems? We don't have the resources to help debug home network problems, but please visit the NCF DSL discussion group for tips and advice from other NCF members. (Please contribute your ideas there too -- it's a way you can help make Ottawa a better place.)

Technical questions about NCF's DSL

After I've signed up, how do I get set up? In most cases, it's simple -- just plug things in and your computer will do the rest. Follow the instructions that come with the modem for how to plug in the line filters and modem. If you purchased a modem from NCF, NCF will have pre-configured it with your NCF account ID and DSL password, and it should work immediately (if you don't have a pre-configured modem, you'll have to enter just account and password information; if you are asked for 'PVC info', enter '0.35'). If you have problems, check out our DSL help pages, or the DSL discussion group.
How do I get help? Check out our DSL help pages, or the DSL discussion group. Or, call the NCF helpline, at 613-721-1773.
Do I have to buy a modem from NCF? No, but the DSL modems we offer are trouble-free. We aren't equipped with information to troubleshoot other modem types.
How many email addresses can I get? With your DSL service, you have an NCF membership, and that gives you one email address. If you need more email addresses for others in your household, just register an NCF membership for each person.
Can I run my own servers? Yes. (Some people want to operate their computer as a server, eg., a web server, for others on the internet.)
Can I get a static IP?

Yes, for an additional $4 per month.

A 'static IP' is an IP address that doesn't change. For a typical dialup or DSL connection, you get a different IP address each time you connect to your ISP (an IP address is your computer's unique identifier on the Internet.) This is fine for normal usage (email, web surfing, etc), but if you want to run your own servers then it's best for your computer to be known by the same identifier all the time: you want your IP address to stay the same (or "static") for every connection.

I'm planning on changing my local telephone (analog voice) service provider. How does that affect my DSL service?

You will usually lose service for one to two business days. Please leave us a message seven to ten business days in advance to make the transition as smooth as possible.

If you are switching to a provider other than Bell, you will need to contact your new telephone supplier to get a circuit line number for us for your phone line.

If you are switching to a 'digital telephone service' (VOIP) such as 'Rogers Digital', 'Vonage' or others, and terminating your traditional analog voice service, please check out dry copper DSL from NCF.

We're charged $5 to change service providers, which we pass on to you.

I can't get online. What do I do? Please see our troubleshooting page. Following troubleshooting steps is important because it avoids the situation where a Bell technician is dispatched to your home only to determine that the problem is with elements of the service for which you are responsible. These can be items like home-wiring, modem issues or computer setup. In such situations, Bell will then levy a fee of about $100 which we have to pass on to you - and we want to help you avoid getting hit with that.

Dry copper DSL questions

What is the difference between A, B or C band? The 'band' is a rough measure of the cost to Bell of providing service to your location, and is loosely related to line length. The definition and price for each band is regulated by the CRTC. Bands range from dense urban areas ('band A') to difficult-to-access sparsely-populated locations ('band G').
Will I be able to use a voiceband modem, eg., 56 Kbps computer modem, over dry copper DSL? Dry DSL has no voice channel. Voiceband computer modems depend on a voice channel. To use a voiceband modem, you need a telephone line that has an operating voice channel; you need regular DSL.
Will I be able to send or receive faxes over dry copper DSL? No, faxes depend on a voice channel. If you want to send/receive faxes over your telephone line, you need a telephone line with an operating voice channel; you need regular DSL.
Will I be able to use VOIP with dry copper DSL? Yes, VOIP sends its information over the internet (DSL) channel, so you can use VOIP (Voice Over IP) on dry (or regular) DSL. VOIP works with an internet connection of any sort, provided it is fast enough.
Will my home alarm system work with dry DSL service? Home alarm systems typically send their signals over the voice part of a phone line, and thus may not work with Dry DSL, since it has no voice channel. However, you should check with the supplier of your alarm service to find out what needs to be done, if anything, for it to operate with Dry DSL.

Regular DSL has a voice channel.

About DSL

How fast is DSL?

DSL download speed is typically 6 Mb/s or higher; far faster than dial-up. Web browsing is much faster, and streaming media becomes much more feasible (including real-time video, audio, and voice). DSL connections are classified as 'broadband', meaning they provide high throughput.

The maximum speed of the DSL data channel depends on the length and electrical quality of the wire between your residence and the neighbourhood telephone office. The download rate is typically capped at a certain speed by the equipment, but if you are too far away or if your line has quality problems, it may not reach the expected speed.

Bell is responsible for building the network that carries DSL in Ontario/Quebec. They steady improve its breadth and quality. In most urban areas it is now capable of up to 50 Mb/s, which is achieved by using fiber to neighbourhood 'nodes' and then from there to homes using copper wire (hence the phrase 'fiber to the node' and acronym 'FTTN').

Is 300 GB per month enough? How much is 'normal'?

It depends on your habits. For example, maybe you're a household consisting of two adults who use their computers heavily, doing a lot of web-browsing, email, etc, and downloads for ordinary computer maintenance; you might use less than 10 GB per month. On the other hand, a person watching a lot of movies or connecting to streaming-media for long periods of time or doing a lot of peer-to-peer transfers might use over 100 GB a month (a typical full-length movie requires one to two GB).

300 GB per month is an extraordinary amount of usage, especially when morning usage (2am to noon) isn't counted.

Why is having a DSL modem with built-in router better?

With multiport modems, such as the TP-Link 8951ND, you can plug in up to four computers and instantly have a home network. Wireless is even easier. A built-in router makes all this possible.

Having a built-in router also provides security benefits. 'Network address translation', a router function, means that your home network will be less visible to the internet -- reducing the risk of malicious activity that might harm your computers. This is a tremendous layer of security. You can buy more inexpensive modems and routers separately, but not for the cost of a TP-Link modem (which combines a modem, router, and firewall into one device) from NCF.

However, having a router does not protect you from email-borne viruses or from spyware that you download. You should still take precautions against that.

How does DSL compare with cable internet? Or Bell's Fibe service?

DSL and cable internet are both 'broadband' and thus both support features like streaming video and VOIP. Cable is shared with others, and therefore the bandwidth you get varies depending on how many other people are connected and using their system; when no one else on your cable is using their system, the bandwidth you get can be higher than with DSL. With DSL, your DSL connection is entirely yours.

Bell also offers DSL over its wires, and calls the service 'Fibe' (even though at your home it arrives over usual copper 'phone' wires, not fiber optics). All DSL in Ontario and Quebec is delivered to your home by wires owned by Bell Canada, no matter who you pay (they, in turn, pay Bell, regulated by the CRTC).

My phone line is rotary dial, not tone. Is that OK? Bell Canada requires that you have tone-dial (not rotary dial) to have DSL service.

About NCF

Why sign-up for DSL from NCF?

NCF is owned by its members, a large group of people in the national capital area (including you, if you join), so you can have confidence that NCF will look for ways to improve upon whatever our suppliers provide. NCF will always strive to maximize benefit for its members.

NCF is the national capital region’s not-for-profit alternative to commercial internet providers.

By signing up with NCF, you help strengthen NCF by increasing its economies of scale. With your decision, you decide which group/corporation you want to strengthen.

Do you have a question that should be added to this FAQ?
If you'd like to email it to the NCF office, please enter it below and press 'Send'.

If you'd like a reply, provide your email address: