Internet penalties challenged

Rick Copes is so angry about Northwestel's internet charges he started an online group to protest the company's crippling fees. He set up the Facebook group Northwestel Abuses Yukoners and Exploits its Monopoly, after being billed hundreds of dollars for exceeding the telco's bandwidth cap.

Rick Copes is so angry about Northwestel’s internet charges he started an online group to protest the company’s crippling fees.

He set up the Facebook group Northwestel Abuses Yukoners and Exploits its Monopoly, after being billed hundreds of dollars for exceeding the telco’s bandwidth cap.

“It was more than three times what my bill normally is,” said Copes. “It would have been cheaper for me to add three internet accounts.”

Copes is not alone.

Since he started the Facebook group in December he’s seen more than a hundred people “like” it.

At $10 a gigabyte, Northwestel’s charges up to 10 times more than any other service provider in Canada for exceeding its data cap.

Northwestel insists its pricing is relative to the cost of doing business in the Yukon, and that comparable fees in the South are unfair.

With its remote location and small population, the cost of connecting the Yukon is probably higher than other parts of the country. But it’s hard to know.

Northwestel won’t provide numbers to back up its claims.

That lack of transparency leaves some customers skeptical about the company’s assertions.

“I fail to understand how a measly 10 gigs costs that much more to Northwestel,” said Linda Hillier, a Whitehorse-based IT professional.

Hillier lives in Marsh Lake and, like all Northwestel customers outside Whitehorse, is restricted to 30 gigabytes of bandwidth per month.

With such a meagre data cap, Hillier says it’s cheaper to drive roughly 60 kilometres to town to rent a movie than watch it online.

“If you have to be careful with how many YouTube videos you watch,” said Hillier. “I think that’s a little ridiculous.”

By setting data caps low and imposing ridiculously high charges on overages, Northwestel wants people to go over their limit, said Copes.

Northwestel insists this isn’t true.

Seven to 10 per cent of customers hit their data caps, say company officials.

But Northwestel won’t say how much these customers exceed the cap. And it won’t say how much revenue the penalties bring in.

Northwestel’s internet business is an unregulated monopoly, and the company is fiercely protective of that status.

“That’s competitive information,” said Northwestel spokesperson Anne Kennedy when asked for the financial information. “We don’t release that type of detail. Anybody else could offer service up here.”

The Yukon government is aware Northwestel may be gouging customers, but cautions against direct comparisons.

“There is not the economy of scale that you see in Vancouver or Toronto, and the cost of infrastructure is expensive,” said Terry Hayden, assistant deputy minister of Economic Development. “It’s not an apples-to-apples comparison.”

However, it’s the CRTC, not the Yukon government, that oversees the telecommunications industry.

The territory began lobbying the CRTC last fall to include broadband service as a basic service, said Hayden.

That might pave the way for a federal subsidy program to reduce internet costs, similar to the fund for long-distance providers.

“Telecommunications, internet in particular, is too important to be left to market forces alone,” said Hayden

In the meantime, Copes is left frustrated by Northwestel’s limits and high charges.

“I don’t understand why they punish us for using their service,” said Copes.

Contact Josh Kerr at

Just Posted

The Fireweed Market in Shipyards Park will open on May 13. Joel Krahn/Yukon News
Whitehorse’s Fireweed Market opens May 13

The Fireweed Market will return with ‘exciting’ new and returning vendors

Ron Rousseau holds a sign saying ‘It’s time for a cultural shift’ during the Yukoners: Raise Your Voice Against Misogyny rally on May 11. (John Tonin/Yukon News)
Protest held to condemn Yukon Party MLAs’ texts

A rally was held outside of legislature to condemn the inappropriate texts messages of Yukon Party MLAs Stacey Hassard and Wade Istchenko.


Wyatt’s World for May 12, 2021.… Continue reading

Health Minister Tracy-Anne McPhee and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Brendan Hanley announced youth vaccination clinics planned for this summer. (Alistair Maitland/Yukon government file)
Vaccination campaign planned for Yukon youth age 12 and up

The Pfizer vaccine was approved for younger people on May 5.

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley announced two new cases of COVID-19 on May 11. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Two new cases of COVID-19 reported, one in the Yukon and one Outside

One person is self-isolating, the other will remain Outside until non-infectious

Neil Hartling, the Tourism Industry Association of the Yukon president, left, said the new self-isolation guidelines for the Yukon are a ‘ray of hope’ for tourism operators. (Ian Stewart/Yukon News file)
Yukon tourism operators prepared for ‘very poor summer’ even with relaxed border rules

Toursim industry responds to new guidelines allowing fully vaccinated individuals to skip mandatory self-isolation.

A lawsuit has been filed detailing the resignation of a former Yukon government mine engineer. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
A year after resigning, former chief mine engineer sues Yukon government

Paul Christman alleges a hostile work environment and circumvention of his authority led him to quit

Former Liberal MLA Pauline Frost speaks to reporters outside the courthouse on April 19. One of the voters accused of casting an invalid vote has been granted intervenor status in the lawsuit Frost filed last month. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Voters named in Pauline Frost election lawsuit ask to join court proceedings

The judge granted Christopher Schafer intervenor status

Haley Ritchie/Yukon News file
File photo of the legislative assembly. The previous spring sitting began on March 4 but was interrupted due to the election.
Throne speech kicks off short spring legislature sitting

The government will now need to pass the budget.

The deceased man, found in Lake LaBerge in 2016, had on three layers of clothing, Dakato work boots, and had a sheathed knife on his belt. Photo courtesy Yukon RCMP
RCMP, Coroner’s Office seek public assistance in identifying a deceased man

The Yukon RCMP Historical Case Unit and the Yukon Coroner’s Office are looking for public help to identify a man who was found dead in Lake LaBerge in May 2016.

Yukon Zinc’s Wolverine minesite has created a mess left to taxpayers to clean up, Lewis Rifkind argues. This file shot shows the mine in 2009. (John Thompson/Yukon News file)
Editorial: The cost of the Wolverine minesite

Lewis Rifkind Special to the News The price of a decent wolverine… Continue reading

Letters to the editor.
Today’s mailbox: border opening and Yukon Party texts

Dear Premier Sandy Silver and Dr Hanley, Once again I’m disheartened and… Continue reading

Fire chief Jason Everett (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City launches emergency alert system

The city is calling on residents and visitors to register for Whitehorse Alert

Most Read