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Many missing out on cheaper Internet

Thousands of NorthwesTel customers are still paying more than they need to for Internet service.

Thousands of NorthwesTel customers are still paying more than they need to for Internet service.

According to the company, about 25 per cent of its customer base is still being billed according to the telecom’s old service packages, which were updated just over a year ago. The old packages are slower and have considerably higher per-gigabyte costs than the new packages.

When the new packages were rolled out last April, the company decided to leave existing customers on their old plans unless they asked to be upgraded. New customers are automatically offered the new plans.

The News requested an interview with Northwestel management, but were told they were unavailable.

Company spokesman Eric Clement said that the old plans are being phased out slowly.

“The uptake has been pretty high. We’re at around 75 per cent of our customers on the new plans now, and we expect people to continue to switch to those new packages,” Clement said.

The company is requiring customers to ask to be switched over for two reasons, he said.

“There are some changes to customer accounts that they have to initiate themselves,” he said.

“If we were to make sweeping new changes to customers’ accounts, that could lead to some unhappy customers,” Clement said.

The other reason is because the company’s systems wouldn’t be able to handle the load, he said. If every NorthwesTel customer was switched over to the new plans at the same time, the system wouldn’t be able to take it, Clement said.

The newer plans cost about $2 more in each price bracket, Clement said.

Eventually, as people either choose to upgrade or cancel their accounts, the old plans will go extinct, but in the meantime, some customers may be upset to learn they’re being billed extra for exceeding a cap that wouldn’t be so low if they were on the new plans.

Running both plans simultaneously doesn’t cause the company any grief, Clement said. Customers on the old plans are simply more restricted in their usage than the newer ones.

The company’s overage policy was the source of much frustration earlier this winter when customers started complaining en masse about being hit with unexpected bills that sometimes reached thousands of dollars.

Many questioned whether the company’s usage monitors were working properly, to which the telecom has always insisted they are.

Whitehorse’s Kyle Jennex began compiling a list of names of people who claimed they’d been unfairly billed by NorthwesTel, and even threatened a class-action lawsuit.

In response, the company reduced its per-gigabyte fee for exceeding usage caps to $5 from $10. Some plans in Whitehorse now only charge $2.50 a gigabyte for going over.

Contact Jesse Winter at