A Northwestel satellite dish. The telecommunications company has made an urgent application to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission to waive internet overage fees for terrestrial-served communities in March and April in light of concerns about the spread of COVID-19. (Yukon News/file photo)

Northwestel applies to waive Internet overage fees in light of COVID-19 spread

Northwestel submitted an urgent application to the CRTC on March 16.

Northwestel has submitted an urgent application to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) to waive Internet overage charges for terrestrial-served communities in March and April in light of COVID-19.

The telecommunications company submitted the application March 16.

The change would impact most communities in the Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, northern Alberta and northern British Columbia, Northwestel said in a press release the same day. Capacity is being augmented to accommodate the anticipated increase in use.

Health officials have recommended people practice “social isolation” in order to help stem the spread of the coronavirus that’s causing COVID-19. People who have travelled abroad and who begin experiencing symptoms like a fever, coughing or difficulty breathing are advised to self-isolate for 14 days.

For those communities serviced by satellite where it isn’t possible to increase capacity quickly, Northwestel has proposed a temporary doubling of Internet usage caps.

Old Crow is the only community in the Yukon and Fort Ware is the only community in northern B.C. on satellite service. In the Northwest Territories the communities include Colville Lake, Gameti, Lutselke, Paulatuk, Sachs Harbour, Samba K’e, Ulukhaktok, and Wekweeti. And in Nunavut, those communities include Iqaluit, Arviat, Cambridge Bay, Rankin Inlet.

“The CRTC has previously acknowledged that Northwestel’s residential DSL Internet rates are significantly below its costs,” the press release says. “Northwestel’s proposal therefore includes the CRTC freezing the subsidy for telecommunications in northern high-cost serving areas at 2019 levels to ensure adequate funding for northern telecommunications in this critical period.”

Along with the temporary measures in light of COVID-19, Northwestel said it has also proposed an unlimited option in communities on cable service that would come into effect after the waiver, should CRTC approve it.

Northwestel spokesperson Andrew Anderson said details on that would be available if approval is granted and when packages are launched.

He referred questions about the urgent application and process for approval to the CRTC.

CRTC officials could not be reached by deadline to comment on the process and timeline for the application.

Contact Stephanie Waddell at stephanie.waddell@yukon-news.com

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