Northwestel dealing with internet traffic issues

Making pirated movies at home sucks up a lot of internet bandwidth. So when a customer in Inuvik began consuming an unusual amount of internet…

Making pirated movies at home sucks up a lot of internet bandwidth.

So when a customer in Inuvik began consuming an unusual amount of internet service, Northwestel decided to look into it.

The company found out, informally, that movies were being made and gave the customer a notice to stop.

“It was just hearsay and we had to tell them,” said Anne Kennedy, spokesperson for Northwestel.

“That’s what triggered that notice,” she said.

It’s only one of the ways the internet service provider is forced to control the network’s speed so that the service remains intact.

Internet throttling has become a new common practice for internet service providers in North America due to rising and heavier internet use.

Bell recently had to face down a group of its wholesale users in a hearing at the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission over the throttling issue.

The group argued that Bell had never openly proven that its service was congested.

The risk was that the telecom giant could throttle service on uses that competed with its products, like peer-to-peer programs.

The commission sided with Bell for the most part, but made plans to hold more general hearings on throttling next year.

“We’ve had to deal with some traffic-management issues,” said Kennedy.

“We do monitor that when there is a sudden peak usage that doesn’t fit the usual pattern,” she said.

The most common reason for throttling is congestion, she said.

And that means targeting heavy users.

“It’s putting checks and balances for overuse,” she said.

The problem is worse in Old Crow.

“Most of the Northwestel network is terrestrial in the Yukon, in other words it’s done through fibre-optic cable or microwave radio,” said Kennedy.

Old Crow is the only Yukon community served by satellite.

“Satellite tends to be our smallest bandwidth,” she said.

“We have to buy the bandwidth from Telesat. They feed most of the Canadian satellite public telecommunications networks.”

Without the capacity to supply the desired bandwidth, Northwestel must shape who gets the faster and the slower lanes on the internet highway.

“We buy what we hope is sufficient, but it’s always something that is adjusted,” she said.

Excessive bandwidth use can also raise an eyebrow.

“There have been a few odd instances where we have gone further to look at what may be suspicious bandwidth usage,” said Kennedy.

Spam is sometimes the culprit.

“It’s called undesired traffic,” she said.

“(A spam producer) will target a certain domain extension, like, and target all the addresses and we will see millions of messages,” she said.

Spam ends up flowing out of an infected computer.

“(The throttling) is there to save legitimate bandwidth users when we get millions of attacks,” she said.

“That’s traffic management.”

Northwestel may put restrictions on customers who do use too much bandwidth.

“(Internet service providers) can do that if it looks like a particular customer is exceeding the contract,” said Kennedy.

“That’s where we may put some restrictions on it,” she said.

Northwestel deals on a smaller scale with the same problems plaguing the large providers to the south. The contentious debate over throttling has raised questions about the fairness of internet service if companies can control traffic to favour their businesses.

Northwestel hasn’t decided whether it will participate in the communications commission hearings next year, but the company is preparing for inevitable changes.

The Bell hearings were just an omen of the coming discussion on internet throttling.

“What I think will happen is that the (commission) wants the telecoms to make (throttling) very clear,” said Kennedy.

“What the (commission) will be stabilizing is defining how the telecoms need to make their management transparent.”

Contact James Munson at

Just Posted

Child Development Centre marks 40 years of service

CDC now serves families throughout the territory

Triple J’s expands offerings with new skin care line

The products feature Canadian ingredients and environmentally-friendly packaging

Relatives of pedestrian struck in 2001 urge change after latest fatality at the intersection

‘I don’t know what the solution is, but I just think something needs to be done’

Whitehorse officials promise improvements to cycling routes

Commuters say more focus on the downtown is needed


Wyatt’s World

Arctic Sports Inter-School Championship draws athletes from as far as Juneau

The three-day event included more than 300 participants from kindergarten to Grade 12

Access road to Telegraph Creek now open

Ministry has spent $300K to date on work to clear rockslide

Freedom Trails responds to lawsuit

A statement of defence was to the Yukon Supreme Court on Nov. 19.

Whitehorse RCMP seeking suspects after robbery at Yukon Inn

Robbery took place in early hours of Nov. 27, with suspects armed with a knife and “large stick”

Yukonomist: Your yogurt container’s dirty secret

You should still recycle, but recycling one might be giving you a false sense of environmental virtue

History Hunter: New book tells old story of nursing in the Yukon

Author Amy Wilson was a registered nurse in the Yukon from 1949 to 1951

Jack Hulland wins 2019 Yukon Elementary School Hockey Tournament

The one-day tournament featured nearly a dozen teams from Whitehorse, Dawson City and Teslin

City news, briefly

Some of the decisions that were made at the Nov. 25 Whitehorse city council meeting

Most Read