Northwestel can’t count

Eric Zalitis started his day with terrible news from Northwestel. "They told me I owed $645," said Zaltis, a retired RCMP officer who lives in Dawson City.

Eric Zalitis started his day with terrible news from Northwestel.

“They told me I owed $645,” said Zaltis, a retired RCMP officer who lives in Dawson City.

When he checked his usage on the company’s website, it showed he had used almost 100 gigabytes of data last month.

He fired off an angry email to the telco, and when he checked again a couple hours later everything was back to normal – his bill read zero.

This is the third time that Zaltis has had this problem.

And he’s not the only one.

More than 700 Northwestel customers were erroneously sent emails yesterday telling them that they had gone over their bandwidth caps.

“The notification service sent out some incorrect usage amounts to some DSL customers, but it’s not impacting customers’ usage amounts or their billing,” said Sunny Patch, communications manager for Northwestel.

People who have had this problem can contact Northwestel by phone, and reports are available on their website, said Patch.

That’s a process that Zaltis has been through before.

“You call Northwestel and they start blaming everyone in the family,” he said “We have a secure wireless, we have their firewalls and everything and we still got the problems.”

Some customers have started to measure their internet usage with software programs and found Northwestel’s numbers don’t add up.

“They said we used 45 gigs in March but, according to our software, we only used 18,” said Northwestel customer Randy Whitton.

Two months ago Whitton installed a program called Networx on all of his home computers to monitor how much bandwidth he was using.

When he called to complain, Northwestel said that his router must have been hacked.

“I can look at my logs on the router and tell you everybody that’s been on it, and it’s just our computers,” he said. “It just seems like excuse after excuse after excuse, and they won’t admit that there’s a problem.”

Those discrepancies aren’t always in the company’s favour, said Rick Copes.

Copes runs a Facebook group called Northwestel Abuses Yukoners and Exploits its Monopoly, dedicated to protesting the telco’s data rates.

He tested Northwestel’s counter by downloading a five-gigabyte file, and then checked his usage online with their counter.

It showed only three gigs of usage.

Copes said he has seen the counter make mistakes before, and then mysteriously, the numbers change several days later.

Northwestel asserts its counter is accurate, and that this latest problem is only with the notification system.

However there is no way to check its accuracy, because, just like the price of internet itself, the way usage is measured is completely unregulated.

A branch of Industry Canada inspects all businesses nationwide that sell a product in a measurable quantity, like a gas station or butcher shop.

But the law that governs such things, the Weights and Measurements Act, doesn’t cover internet data.

“The act does not specifically address bandwidth measuring devices for internet usage-based billing,” said Industry Canada spokesperson Michel Cimpaye in an email. “As such, Measurement Canada does not currently regulate internet usage measurement accuracy.”

That lack of oversight is frustrating for Northwestel customers.

“If they sell you a gigabyte they should have to prove you’ve used a gigabyte, but they don’t have to,” said Whitton, who added that the only way anything is going to change is with an act of Parliament.

Contact Josh Kerr at

Just Posted

Northwestel says it is investigating into the cause of the total communications blackout throughout the territory after a power failure in Whitehorse on Wednesday night.
Internet outage prompts criticism on Dempster fibre project delays

The Liberals responded that they have proceeded cautiously to avoid high costs.

A motorcycle with driver pulled over on the right side of the North Klondike Highway whose speed was locked in at 171 kilometres per hour. (Courtesy/Yukon RCMP)
Patrols of Yukon highways find poorly-secured loads, intoxicated drivers

The ongoing patrols which police call ‘Operation Cooridor’ is mainly focused on commercial vehicles.

Awaken Festival organizers Meredith Pritchard, Colin Wolf, Martin Nishikawa inside the Old Firehall in Whitehorse on May 11. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Performing arts fest plans to awaken artistic talent in Whitehorse and the rural North

‘A value of ours is to make theatre as accessible as possible.’

April Mikkelsen tosses a disc during a ladies only disc golf tournament at Solstice DiscGolfPark on May 8. John Tonin/Yukon News
Yukon sees its first-ever women’s disc golf tournament

The Professional Disc Golf Assocation had a global women’s event last weekend. In the Yukon, a women’s only tournament was held for the first time ever.

Dave Blottner, executive director at the Whitehorse Food Bank, said the food bank upped its services because of the pandemic. (John Tonin/Yukon News)
Food Bank sees Yukoners’ generosity firsthand

“Businesses didn’t know if they could stay open but they were calling us to make sure we were able to stay open.”

More than 25,000 people have received the firsdt dose of the vaccine, according to the Yukon government. (Black Press file)
Yukon has now vaccinated 76 per cent of eligible adults

The territory has surpassed its goal of 75 per cent as a first step toward ‘herd immunity’

A prescribed burn is seen from the lookout at Range Road and Whistle Bend Way in Whitehorse May 12. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
Editorial: Are you ready for a forest fire?

Citizens for a Firesmart Whitehorse have listed some steps for Yukoners to boost safety and awareness

Caribou pass through the Dempster Highway area in their annual migration. A recent decision by the privacy commissioner has recommended the release of some caribou collar re-location data. (Justin Kennedy/Yukon News)
Privacy commissioner recommends release of caribou location data

Department of Environment says consultation with its partners needed before it will consider release

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Family pleased youth will be able to get Pfizer vaccine

Angela Drainville, mother of two, is anxious for a rollout plan to come forward

Safe at home office in Whitehorse on May 10, 2021. (John Tonin/Yukon News)
Federal government provides $1.6 million for Yukon anti-homelessness work

Projects including five mobile homes for small communities received funding.

Drilling at Northern Tiger’s 3Ace gold project in 2011. Randi Newton argues that mining in the territory can be reshaped. (Yukon government/file)
Editorial: There’s momentum for mining reform

CPAWS’ Randi Newton argues that the territory’s mining legislations need a substantial overhaul

At its May 10 meeting, Whitehorse city council approved the subdivision for the Kwanlin Dün First Nation’s business park planned in Marwell. (Submitted)
KDFN business park subdivision approved

Will mean more commercial industrial land available in Whitehorse

Most Read