It could be some time before Northwestel customers know whether their overage charges in March and April are waived.
On March 18, the Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) responded to Northwestel’s request earlier in the week to waive overage charges in March and April in light of the impact of COVID-19.
The CRTC asked Northwestel to resubmit its request without any preconditions attached.
In its response, the CRTC notes that in addition to the waiving of overage charges, Northwestel also asked that the local service subsidy it receives, which was set to be phased out in 2021, be restored and funded from the National Contribution Fund, and that an unlimited data option be introduced on May 1.
“Northwestel advances a number of arguments in support of its application that raise notably the very issues the Commission has stated it intends to address in an upcoming proceeding,” reads the response signed by CRTC telecommunications sector executive director Chris Seidl.
He went on to state Northwestel made it clear waiving overages was “conditional on the Commission restoring the local subsidy which would have the effect of the Commission prematurely reconsidering its determinations on local subsidy prior to receiving the submissions of other parties in an upcoming proceeding on that same issue.”
Given the nature of the issues raised in the application, as well as “the challenges associated with participating in regulatory proceedings during this unique time of crisis, Northwestel is requested to re-file amendments to its existing internet tariff without preconditions, so that the Commission may give this important initiative its immediate consideration.”
Northwestel spokesman Andrew Anderson said March 19 that after receiving the CRTC’s response, officials are working on a new plan “to provide relief for northern customers” and will work to refile the application immediately.
Asked why the waiving of overage charges was contingent on the subsidy being restored, Anderson stated in an email: “On Monday, Northwestel submitted an application to the CRTC as part of our COVID-19 response. As we normally do, we included information relevant to the cost of providing additional service in Northern high-cost service areas. We have received a letter in response from the CRTC and are now developing an adjusted plan to provide relief for northern customers. We will seek to file a revised application immediately.”
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