Open letter to NorthwesTel:
Thank you for your email acknowledging NorthwesTel’s participation at the Utilities Consumers’ Group/CJUC 92.5 FM recent open forum on Internet problems.
We look forward to getting together yet again to share more information with our members and listeners at our upcoming radio forum tentatively scheduled for May 7. We welcome any feedback or suggestions prior to this event.
As you have certainly been made aware, there are far too many complaints from your ratepayers who received unwarranted Internet bills for service of $300 or $1,000, or even worse $3,000 in one month. Dropping fees for Internet users who exceed their monthly usage limits to $3 per gigabyte, from $5 and previously $10, simply looks good in the media but does nothing to remedy the real problem.
NorthwesTel should be advancing modifications to your programs, policy, and delivery which could go a long way into giving your long-term customers some relief and comfort from unreasonable overcharges. You could immediately remedy most of your customer concerns without any economic downturn to your corporation by:
1. Immediately implementing a usage cap to cut modems off after they reach their monthly limit. Customers would be able to “opt in” for a set amount; such as $75 above and beyond each customer terms of service quota.
NorthwesTel publicly stated at the forum that this concept is a valid solution, but you then place your efforts into superficial solutions and neglect the valid one. By offering only lip service you have done nothing to boost confidence within your community which you are licensed to serve. Most other industry service providers, such as banks, gas stations, and most progressive Internet businesses offer such basic options which facilitate over-charge or over-usage resolutions for their customers.
2. Being accountable and giving your customers real, truthful answers about discrepancies in usage readings with NorthwesTel equipment by disclosing the type of equipment, make, model number and firmware version used to track Internet usage and how each particular tracking unit is validated and monitored.
You are being publicly challenged here and have done nothing to make your claim legitimate, except implying trust us. Again, other industries’ equipment is highly regulated and must meet certain criteria and national standards.
3. Immediately ceasing in the charging of fees for transfer of information within city/municipal operating areas. For example, eliminate these “cross-town packet charges” for businesses which have offices downtown and warehouses in one of the industrial areas.
These transfers do not cost NorthwesTel one penny in bandwidth charges to link these locations together. Why would NorthwesTel insist on charging these businesses for moving information inside their own network? And yet even more irresponsibly, why would you charge at both ends of these connections?
4. Immediately commencing corrective maintenance to NorthwesTel infrastructure in its cable Internet lines in Porter Creek and instituting a retroactive customer refund for lack of service capacity. It appears that your infrastructure in this area is only reliable 10 per cent of the time, so refunds of 90 per cent would be a practical solution until the problem is fixed.
Hopefully these ideas help you find some legitimate solutions for your customer needs. In the meantime, a response would be appreciated.
Utilities Consumers’ Group