well this is nice

And I quote:

IStop.com service disruption

Bell Canada cut off IStop.com for refusing to pay over a million dollars in disputed charges. Written notice was given to Bell several times over the past 3 years demanding that the dispute be escalated; the contract with Bell stipulates disputes should be escalated to the office of the president. Instead Bell decided to take unilateral action, even after recent communication from our lawyer.

Customers will be given credits or refunds for the service disruption. We will post another update tomorrow (Friday) morning with further details.

While I feel for the company, I feel more for me and everyone else I know who uses iStop. I have a feeling the actions were not as unilateral (I mean 3 years?!? c’mon now, there’s something you’re not telling us) as represented, and the tarriffs state that fair warning must occur. I have to think, based on personal experiences with collections at Bell, that the dispute resolution process is fairly straight forward, and there’s a lot more to this tale.

I would guess that the company decided that “I’m not going to pay” is the equivalent of a dispute, and that their interpretation of the resolution process was that they didn’t have to pay as long as they disputed the charges. Any contracts I’ve ever worked on for don’t read that way, as there’s usually a cap that limits the monies that can be lawfully withheld (i.e. you can only withhold the disputed amounts, there’s a maximum dollar or percentage of a given invoice that may be withheld, etc.).

I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt, though, and just hope they get things worked out ASAP. Their lawyers also may very well have been in negotiations. Sometimes in large companies billing doesn’t keep provisioning updated, and bad things happen. It’s been almost 24 hours now, and I have to think there are a few thousand business and residential customers affected (including at least 5 people I know). Not a good day for them, as I’m sure there will be considerable fallout.

Updated (10:13): istop changed the message on their site – it now reads:

IStop.com service disruption

We regret that Bell Canada, in direct contravention of its contractual obligations to us, has suspended service to IStop over disputed billings. IStop has repeatedly brought Bell’s errors to its attention, without receiving a response. IStop has also attempted to invoke the dispute resolution clause of its contract with Bell, which requires that disputes be arbitrated. Bell has refused to participate. We have directed our lawyers to deal with Bell to arbitrate and to end the suspension of service; so far, Bell continues to refuse to reply.

We have detailed Bell’s billing errors, which include duplicate charges, rate errors, and tariff contraventions. Unfortunately, Bell appears to believe that, as a giant dealing with smaller businesses, it need not concern itself with correcting mistakes or adhering to contracts. We will continue to try to resolve this issue as quickly as possible.

Customers will be given credits or refunds for the service disruption.

My translation: Don’t expect service anytime soon.

Update 2 (10:29): This was added to the message above:

We are working with other ISPs to make temporary arrangements to restore service to our customers. We expect to have this in place by noon today (Friday).

That should be interesting. I’m now curious about which circuit was brought down.

Update 3 (11:30): Well, the istop site disappeared about 45 minutes ago and hasn’t come back. I am researching other options, but it’ll be at least a week to get any switches done, so I’ll wait a little bit.