Yellowknife-based SSi Micro is fed up with Northwestel and, according to its officials, Yukoners should be too.
“If I was a Yukon consumer, I would not be happy right now,” said Dean Proctor, the chief development officer for SSi Micro, an Internet service provider.
Last June, the company asked the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission to step in and force Northwestel to start providing reasonable rates for its V-Connect service, the raw fibre-optic link to the south.
It took the commission more than six months to reach a decision, but in June it sided with SSi Micro and ordered Northwestel to come up with a reasonable rate based on a cost study.
However, instead of complying with the commission’s order, this week Northwestel asked the CRTC to stay the ruling. Instead of pricing out V-Connect, the telco proposed a new wholesale Internet transport service.
Northwestel claims the new service is similar to what third-party ISPs use in the south.
Proctor doesn’t know if that’s actually true, but it really doesn’t matter, he said.
“It’s not what we asked for and it’s not what the commission asked for them to provide,” said Proctor. “They made this up out of nowhere.”
“This is just another delay tactic, and actually, a blatantly obvious one.”
Northwestel already offers a similar service called I-Gate, which is what SSi Micro uses right now to send the majority of its Internet traffic south.
“(The Internet Transport Service) is basically a discombobulated version of I-Gate,” said Proctor.
For more than 18 months, SSi Micro has been without an I-Gate contract. It was one of the reasons that it went to the CRTC last June.
The big problem SSi Micro has with both I-Gate and the new transport service is that neither one has any quality-of-service guarantees.
“What they’re doing is intentionally relegating us to a low quality of service,” said Proctor. “It basically excludes us from certain higher quality or more demanding business customers.”
While there is a quality of service guarantee on V-Connect, the rates for that service are unreasonable, said Proctor.
The other problem is that the new Internet Transport Service is only offered as a link from Yellowknife to Edmonton. To include the Yukon would take another application to the CRTC.
“They somehow magically forgot to comply with the commission’s order, which was to give it the pricing wherever V-Connect was available,” said Proctor.
SSi Micro has asked the commission to uphold its original ruling and force Northwestel to set an interim rate for V-Connect services immediately.
“We’re willing to live with that 100 per cent markup while we wait for that cost study to be completed,” said Proctor. “We’ll give you a 1,000 per cent markup just ‘cause it’s interim, which is still better than the current 3,000 per cent mark-up.”
Late last year the CRTC stripped Northwestel of its monopoly on local phone service, but without
a stable, high-quality data link to the south it’s impossible for SSi Micro, or any company, to offer phone services in the Yukon, said Proctor.
“You can’t have local competition unless the CRTC actually steps in and really starts regulating pricing and access to services,” he said. “People have to realize that they don’t have to be in the situation that they’re in.
“There’s gaming going on. It’s not technical, this is foot dragging.”
In places serviced by satellite up-links, where Micro SSi doesn’t have to depend on Northwestel for connectivity, it’s had no trouble operating.
“All of Nunavut is going to have competition before any of the Yukon will,” said Proctor. “That’s where we’re at right now.”
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