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Northwestel plans to end Covid-19 deal but will increase data caps


Northern telecoms giant Northwestel plans to stop offering overage waivers at the end of June and has instead applied to increase most residential customers’ data limits.

The increases would be permanent and at no extra charge to the customer. If the company’s application to regulator the CRTC is accepted, the changes would take effect on July 1.

Since March, Northwestel has waived all fees for people who broke their monthly data limits in NWT communities with cable internet – Yellowknife, Fort Smith, and Norman Wells.

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The company increased monthly usage limits by 50 percent in NWT communities served by satellite internet – Colville Lake, Gamètì, Łutselkʼe, Paulatuk, Sachs Harbour, Sambaa K’e, Ulukhaktok, and Wekweètì.

Other NWT communities served by terrestrial DSL internet, which is slower than cable, were given an extra 100 GB of usage per month.

The changes were designed to protect customers forced to work or study from home during Covid-19 as their internet use surged.

However, Northwestel has now applied to the CRTC to change its approach from July onward.

In its application, filed last week, the company says it will do away with overage waivers and other forms of pandemic relief.

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Instead, Northwestel wants to increase the monthly data limits on most residential packages. The monthly fee you pay would not go up.

More data ‘for 99 percent of customers’

As an example, a Yellowknife or Hay River customer paying $139.95 monthly for 300 GB of data would receive 450 GB for the same price under Northwestel’s proposal – but would go back to paying overage fees if they exceed their data limit.

The new maximum data cap available under the proposal would be 750 GB per month, at a cost of $239.95. As is the case now, that package would only be available in certain communities.

The proposed increases are smaller in size for cheaper packages. If you currently pay for 80 GB of internet per month, you’ll get 90 GB per month under Northwestel’s proposal.

Northwestel told Cabin Radio 99 percent of its residential customers would get a data cap increase at no extra cost if the plan is approved. The changes also apply to some packages for businesses, but only the more expensive ones.

“Northwestel is seeking permanent internet usage increases to replace temporary Covid-19 measures,” the company said in a statement on Monday.

“We have submitted the necessary CRTC applications to increase the usage allowance on our most popular regulated internet packages.

“At this time, these applications have not been approved and current temporary internet relief measures are still in place until June 30.”

Northwestel is the only telecoms provider whose internet services are regulated by the CRTC.

In 2013, the CRTC decided Northwestel’s dominant position in the North meant the company’s plans required federal oversight to ensure fair prices were being set.

As a result, whenever Northwestel makes changes to any of the plans it offers – even alterations that lose money for the company – the CRTC must approve those changes first.

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