CRTC lowers Internet rates in Northern Canada

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Communications (CRTC) has ordered NorthwesTel Inc., the local Internet and phone service provider in Northern Canada to slash residential broadband rates in the Yukon and Northwest Territories by as much as 10 per cent to 30 per cent.

The reduction will be reflected in resident’s bills for May 4.

The CRTC also said that NorthwesTel is not allowed to increase Internet service rates until the end of 2017. The commission also ordered the provider to reduce additional data usage charges and to stop applying additional fees for stand-alone Internet service. As of February 2016, the company must lower its charges for additional usage by at least $0.50 per gigabyte.

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Customers in Nunavut, however, who use satellite-based telecom services and pay retail prices that are much higher than those in Yukon and the NWT, may have to wait a bit longer to see any rate reduction. For example, people in Iqaluit pay as much as $179.95 a month in for 5Mbps, according to the NunatsiaqOnline,  while customers in Whitehorse pay up to $139.95 a month for 100Mbps.

The CRTC’s decision only covers terrestrial services in Yukon and NWT. Most of the people in these area are connected to the southern Internet backbone by fibre optic lines, according to the publication.

As a result of the CRTC’s decision, Northwestel will be required to reduce its rates for residential low-speed Internet connections over a Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) named DSL Internet Lite and DSL Internet 2 by 10 per cent.

Similarly, the company’s rates for residential DSL Internet services featuring download speeds of 5 and 15 megabits per second named DSL Internet 5 and DSL Internet 15 will be required to come down by 30 per cent. Northwestel will not be able to increase any residential Internet rates until the end of 2017 at the earliest, and will need to seek the CRTC’s permission before doing so.

The CRTC’s decision is based on findings from a 2013 report that found there was limited competition in the market for retail Internet services offered using terrestrial facilities. The CRTC decided it had to begin regulating NorthwesTel’s rates “on an exceptional basis.

“Access to reasonably priced Internet services plays an essential role in the North’s economic and social development,” said Jean-Pierre Blais, CRTC chairman, in a statement. “With this decision we are reducing the gap between what consumers pay for Internet services in the northern and southern parts of Canada.”

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Nestor E. Arellano
Nestor E. Arellano
Toronto-based journalist specializing in technology and business news. Blogs and tweets on the latest tech trends and gadgets.

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