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Northwestel ‘looking at appropriate next steps’ for data charges


The northern telecoms giant Northwestel says it has not yet reached any decision on how to charge for internet overages in the month of May and beyond.

Most residents of the NWT are spending most of their time at home during the Covid-19 pandemic, using their home internet package to work or to ensure their kids access online learning.

Schools across the territory have now begun rolling out distance learning programs that rely heavily on software like Google Classroom to reach most students.

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For March and April, Northwestel has waived overage fees entirely for residents of some northern communities, like Yellowknife and Fort Smith, who go over their usual data limits for the month.

Residents of other communities have received significantly higher monthly data caps than would normally be the case.

Now, some are wondering what will happen in May given Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s assertion on Tuesday that restrictions across Canada would remain in place for weeks to come, at least.

By email late on Tuesday, Northwestel issued a short statement declining an interview request and suggesting a decision was still to come.

“In the last two weeks, we’ve made important adjustments on internet usage relief, additional TV programming, and changes to how our technicians conduct work in the home,” read the statement, from spokesperson Andrew Anderson.

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“We are focused on implementing those initiatives and are also monitoring and assessing network activity as we look at appropriate next steps in our Covid-19 response.

“When we have something to announce for the month of May, I will reach out to let you know.”

Northwestel is the only Canadian internet service provider whose packages are vetted by federal regulator the CRTC. That means any changes the company makes to your internet package – even deleting your overage fees – must be approved by the CRTC first.

As of Tuesday night, there was no record of any fresh Northwestel application on the CRTC’s online database of such filings.

However, applications can be retroactive.

Northwestel’s first application was not filed and accepted by the CRTC until mid-March but applied from March 1 until the end of April, meaning the company could technically file again in May or beyond but backdate the changes.

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