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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: Are they coming?

One of COVID-19’s big economic questions is whether it will prompt a… Continue reading

Yukon MP Larry Bagnell, along with Yukon health and education delegates, announce a new medical research initiative via a Zoom conference on Jan. 21. (Screen shot)
New medical research unit at Yukon University launched

The SPOR SUPPORT Unit will implement patient-first research practices

Yukon First Nation Education Directorate members Bill Bennett, community engagement coordinator and Mobile Therapeutic Unit team lead, left, and Katherine Alexander, director of policy and analytics, speak to the News about the Mobile Therapeutic Unit that will provide education and health support to students in the communities. (
Mobile Therapeutic Unit will bring education, health support to Indigenous rural students

The mobile unit will begin travelling to communities in the coming weeks

Premier Sandy Silver, left, and Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley, speak during a live stream in Whitehorse on January 20, about the new swish and gargle COVID-19 tests. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Swish and spit COVID-19 test now available in Yukon

Vaccination efforts continue in Whitehorse and smaller communities in the territory

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police detachment in Faro photgraphed in 2016. Faro will receive a new RCMP detachment in 2022, replacing the decades-old building currently accommodating officers. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Faro RCMP tagged for new detachment

Faro will receive a new RCMP detachment in 2022, replacing the decades-old… Continue reading

In a Jan. 18 announcement, the Yukon government said the shingles vaccine is now being publicly funded for Yukoners between age 65 and 70, while the HPV vaccine program has been expanded to all Yukoners up to and including age 26. (
Changes made to shingles, HPV vaccine programs

Pharmacists in the Yukon can now provide the shingles vaccine and the… Continue reading

Parking attendant Const. Ouellet puts a parking ticket on the windshield of a vehicle in downtown Whitehorse on Dec. 6, 2018. The City of Whitehorse is hoping to write of nearly $300,000 in outstanding fees, bylaw fines and court fees, $20,225 of which is attributed to parking fines issued to non-Yukon license plates. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City of Whitehorse could write off nearly $300,000

The City of Whitehorse could write off $294,345 in outstanding fees, bylaw… Continue reading

Grants available to address gender-based violence

Organizations could receive up to $200,000

In this illustration, artist-journalist Charles Fripp reveals the human side of tragedy on the Stikine trail to the Klondike in 1898. A man chases his partner around the tent with an axe, while a third man follows, attempting to intervene. (The Daily Graphic/July 27, 1898)
History Hunter: Charles Fripp — gold rush artist

The Alaskan coastal town of Wrangell was ill-equipped for the tide of… Continue reading

A man walks passed the polling place sign at city hall in Whitehorse on Oct. 18, 2018. While Whitehorse Mayor Dan Curtis is now setting his sights on the upcoming territorial election, other members of council are still pondering their election plans for the coming year. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Councillors undecided on election plans

Municipal vote set for Oct. 21

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decicions made by Whitehorse city council this week.

A file photo of grizzly bear along the highway outside Dawson City. Yukon conservation officers euthanized a grizzly bear Jan. 15 that was originally sighted near Braeburn. (Alistair Maitland/Yukon News file)
Male grizzly euthanized near Braeburn

Yukon conservation officers have euthanized a grizzly bear that was originally sighted… Continue reading

Most Read