Many northern residents will no longer have to pay any data overage charges in March or April after the CRTC accepted a revised application from Northwestel to drop the fees.
However, not every NWT community gets the same deal. Some will instead see an additional 100 GB added to their monthly data caps for that period, or have their data plan increased by 50 percent.
In the NWT, only Yellowknife, Fort Smith, and Norman Wells residents will have their overage fees waived according to a Northwestel news release.
Whitehorse and Carcross in the Yukon, Fort Nelson in BC, and High Level in Alberta will also have all overage fees dropped.
Residents in NWT communities on satellite data – Colville Lake, Gamètì, Łutselkʼe, Paulatuk, Sachs Harbour, Sambaa K’e, Ulukhaktok, and Wekweètì – will have their package’s data limit increased by 50 percent for March and April.
Those in all other NWT communities will receive an extra 100 GB per month.
“The specific internet usage relief measures will differ by community and network access technology,” said Northwestel in a statement. “in order to ensure adequate network capacity for all users in this critical time.”
The CRTC issued a short notice approving Northwestel’s request on Monday evening.
As it holds a dominant position in the North, Northwestel is the only internet provider in Canada whose packages are federally regulated. That’s why the company had to ask the CRTC for permission to change its packages, even though the change was to reduce or eliminate the fees it charges.
Northwestel first applied to waive the overage charges last week. However, its application at the time stated it would only do so if the CRTC agreed to other conditions.
One of those conditions was reinstating a subsidy to Northwestel of around $6 million over two years from a national fund – payments the regulator had previously decided to phase out.
A table produced by Northwestel shows which communities will receive what form of data relief in March and April.
The CRTC said that application wasn’t acceptable, telling Northwestel to apply again “without preconditions” to get the overage waiver in place, then worry about the $6 million and other issues later on.
The new application, posted to the CRTC’s website on Monday, appeared to comply with that request.
In a letter to CRTC executive director Chris Seidl, Northwestel chief financial officer Stan Thompson said the proposal “provides our customers with additional flexibility to manage their internet usage more effectively in light of the current situation with Covid-19.”
Thompson continued: “Northern Canadians, especially those located in our major centres, are being directed to work from home and reduce social contact just like the rest of Canada.”
Northwestel noted southern providers like Rogers and Telus have already taken similar action. Those providers are not federally regulated as they don’t have the same dominant position in their markets, so they did not have to apply to the CRTC.
The latest letter from Thompson to Seidl included none of the caveats found in last week’s application, in which Northwestel made clear its proposal to waive overage charges was contingent on the CRTC agreeing to reinstate its subsidy.