Northwestel plans to reimburse Rankin Inlet customers who have been experiencing extended service outages over the past few months.
Customers have been complaining about periodic outages in cell and Internet connectivity, which have lasted anywhere between a few minutes to 12 hours at a time on an almost daily basis, since the end of April.
The outages have been affecting business as well as private residents. When the Internet goes out the the debit machines and cash machines that rely on Northwestel also go offline. This has placed an extra strain on small businesses as well as customers who are unable to use their cards or take out cash when outages occur.
“It’s on and off sometimes it will work and sometimes it won’t work,” said Dali Kaludjak, one of the owners of Niksik Hunting Supplies.
“We’ve been having bad issues with it the past few month. It’s been costing us business. People come to buy stuff and when it’s down they leave and they don’t come back.”
Northwestel declined an interview to answer questions about the outages. In an email to Kivalliq News, a representative for Northwestel stated that the company was aware of the issues and was working to resolve them.
They said service is expected to return to normal in the next few weeks and customers will be compensated.
“Northwestel will automatically apply a credit proportional to the impact on their service, once this issue has been fully resolved,” stated the email. “We thank our customers for their continued patience, and we apologize for the inconvenience.”
At least a dozen people took to the Rankin Inlet News Facebook page this week to air their grievances.
A handful mentioned they had contacted the company to complain, with one writing that they had contacted the CRTC.
Megan Pizzo Lyall told Kivalliq News she pays $140 for a 100 GB Internet package from Northwestel. “The package is technically $100 but with taxes and a landline it’s almost $140,” she said, adding that Northwestel requires customers to pay for a landline in order to connect to its network.
Pizzo Lyall said she has been calling Northwestel every time her service has cut out over the last month. She said her Internet has been cutting for at least a short period almost every day.
“With the amount of money they got for their upgrades you would expect top notch service,” said Pizzo Lyall.
Northwestel received $30 million in federal funding for service upgrades in 2017.
Earlier this month Northwestel was ordered to pay out a $5 million settlement for contravening the Telecommunications Act for failing to consult with CRTC before charging for services. $2 million of that money will go toward infrastructure upgrades to improve cellphone service in Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut.
Northwestel is one of several Internet providers in Rankin, in addition to Explorenet and Qiniq, which is owned by SSI Micro.
Pizzo Lyall said she has switched over to a Qiniq account while Northwestel fixes the problem.
“I cancelled that account yesterday,” she said. “So many of my friends switched over.”
In the meantime, she said she continues to call Northwestel to complain every time there is an outage.
“I feel like the more pressure we put on them, hopefully they’ll deal with sooner,” she said. “I’m sure they dread my call.”