Northwestel Provides Cheaper, Faster Internet For Some People

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Northwestel says it is awaiting regulatory approval to reduce the monthly cost of certain residential Internet packages by $ 10 and increase their download and upload speeds.

The company said its proposals “would result in increased upload and download speeds and lower rates in every residential unlimited Internet plan.”

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For example, Northwestel said in a press release: “A home Internet customer on the fastest 250 Mbps unlimited Internet plan has their speed automatically increased to 300 Mbps and their monthly rate reduced by $ 10 per month.

Businesses with unlimited data plans would also see speed increases as part of the proposals, but not get the same price reduction.

When and if these changes happen, it depends on the federal regulator, the CRTC.

Northwestel must have its plans approved by the CRTC because of its dominant position in the North. The CRTC is studying the two proposals that would implement the price change and the speed increase.

This same dominant position is the source of opposition to Northwestel’s proposals behind the scenes.

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SSI Canada, a rival Internet provider, is forced to rely on Northwestel for much of its infrastructure. In many cases, Northwestel has the only fiber optic lines and related technology that provide the Internet to northern communities. SSI has to buy access to this infrastructure at a wholesale price and then find a way to make money.

SSI wants a series of changes in how this wholesale access works. Without these changes, the company says, it would be unfair to let Northwestel reduce rates for its customers.

“While it is clear, as we have recognized time and time again, that northern Canadians want and deserve Internet access at rates, terms and conditions much more comparable to those available to Canadians elsewhere,” writes SSI, “Anchoring Northwestel’s monopoly is a short-sighted and even regressive way to achieve that goal.

SSI also argues that a broader CRTC review of Northwestel’s packages should be completed before any decision on the latest proposals is made.

“Fair and reasonable”

Northwestel stated that SSI’s concerns with the operation of wholesale access cannot be tied to its request to lower prices and increase speeds, and should be discussed separately. The company says it is simply responding to customer demand for cheaper internet.

“We know that northern customers want to see continued improvements in the value of their Internet service, which is why Northwestel has outlined its plans to improve speeds and lower prices on our most popular Internet packages,” said Curtis Shaw, President of Northwestel, in a statement.

But when Northwestel first tabled its proposal to reduce the cost of unlimited plans earlier this year, Whitehorse resident Daniel Sokolov wrote to the CRTC: “If the new prices were fair and reasonable now, they would have already been fair. and reasonable when they were packages were introduced ‘less than six months earlier.

Sokolov wants Northwestel to improve its cheaper plans. (The greater benefits contained in Northwestel’s proposals would apply primarily to people who purchase its more expensive unlimited Internet packages.) It also wants the CRTC to ask Northwestel to expand the range of options available and offer the same kind of price cuts to businesses that are offered to residents.

On the latter point, he has the support of the Yukon Tourism Industry Association, which told the CRTC that Northwestel has a “responsibility to the community, especially in these difficult times” to apply the same reductions to businesses. .

Northwestel, in a response, said companies should seek help from their territorial or federal governments.

Limits remain in some places

Northwestel’s proposals also include increased caps and monthly data speeds for certain customers who do not have unlimited plans. But there are caveats to this.

For example, “network limitations” mean customers in Fort Nelson, British Columbia, cannot achieve download speeds above 125 Mbps, Northwestel told the CRTC this month. Existing packages will continue to be offered in the community.

In some northern communities served by microwave instead of fiber, the maximum speed will remain at 50 Mbps. These are Aklavik, Délįne, Dettah, Fort McPherson, Tsiigehtchic and Tuktoyaktuk in the Northwest Territories, along the Faro and Ross River in the Yukon.

Northwestel has announced that it will upgrade connections to Dettah, Faro and Ross River in 2023. As communities get connected to fiber, their speeds will increase.

“Northwestel has deliberately sought similar prices and download speeds in both fiber and cable Internet packages, so that Northerners in the growing number of rural fiber-optic communities see similar value and benefits as the larger ones. northern centers, ”the company said of its proposals.

LEO? I dont know

Finally, Northwestel’s claims recognize that the imminent introduction of low-earth orbit satellite technology has the potential to completely disrupt the way northerners get their internet – with consequences that are not easy to predict.

In supporting documents requested by the CRTC, Northwestel says its forecast for future demand and revenues do not yet take into account the prospect of competition from Starlink satellites, nor Northwestel’s own partnerships with companies like Telesat. and OneWeb.

The impact and pricing of the low Earth orbit Internet “at this time is totally uncertain,” Northwestel writes.

“LEO satellite technology has the potential to fundamentally disrupt the very nature of the telecommunications industry in the North. The associated impacts will probably be very significant.

These impacts should be felt over the next few years.

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