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Northwestel says unlimited plans coming for some by November


Unlimited internet plans will be available from November 1 in Yellowknife, Hay River, Fort Smith, and Norman Wells, Northwestel says.

The company provided the timeline after being prodded to do so by telecoms regulator the CRTC earlier this month.

NNSL first reported Northwestel’s response, which is due to be posted to the CRTC’s website.

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In a letter to the CRTC also shared with northern residents who had written to the regulator – many complaining about the lack of unlimited plans – Northwestel for the first time committed to a precise date.

Activating unlimited plans by November will require a separate application to the CRTC setting out how the plans will work and their pricing, which is not yet clear.

The Yukon communities of Whitehorse and Carcross will also receive unlimited plans, the company said, as will Fort Nelson in British Columbia.

At the moment, northern residents don’t have the option of purchasing unlimited data plans.

Partly in order to change that, Northwestel earlier this month received $62 million from a new CRTC broadband fund designed to improve northern internet.

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Northwestel’s proposal for spending that money includes installing 316 km of fibre line in the territories, using Telesat’s low-earth orbit satellites in some communities, and upgrading its hybrid-fibre coax broadband network.

The CRTC said before Northwestel receives the funding, it must complete a statement of work setting out the details of each of its projects, including schedules and costs, which must be approved by the regulator.

Construction on the projects is expected to start in the spring of 2021. Once completed, Northwestel must offer internet services to communities at prices no higher than those in Yellowknife and Whitehorse.

The company had earlier said such substantial federal funding was a necessity for unlimited plans to become a reality.

Earlier this year, during the opening months of the pandemic, Northwestel effectively operated unlimited plans in some NWT communities by waiving overage fees to help people working or studying from home.

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