Internet access a necessity, says petition aimed at Northwestel

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Hundreds of people have signed a petition urging Northwestel to waive overage charges until July, while introducing unlimited internet plans to meet soaring demands brought on by COVID-19.

A Change.org petition, launched by Melaw Nakehk’o, wants the service provider to recognize Northerners’ crucial need for high-speed, unlimited internet access — especially in the “extraordinary” times facing residents in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Numerous residents are working from home, many alongside their children while schools remain closed, amid widening health safety measures introduced in the fight against COVID-19.

Northwestel announced last fall that it would work on bringing unlimited data plan packages to customers in the North. The territory is one of the few jurisdictions in Canada without access to unlimited internet data.

That means families and residents are quickly eating up data. Anticipating a surge of internet use, Northwestel applied to have overage fees waived for residents in most NWT communities for the months of March and April. For satellite-served communities, the company proposed doubling data caps to meet rising demands.

That application, made early last week, was rejected by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC). The federal regulator asked the telecom company to resubmit its application without conditions.

Northwestel filed a revised application on Monday.

“Access to free, high-speed internet is a necessity during times of isolation, and is paramount to our way of life,” writes Nakehk’o on the petition page, titled “Accessible/Affordable Internet across the North — #COVID19NWT.”

“By bringing families and communities together, ensuring timely information exchange, and supporting small businesses, high-speed internet has become fundamental to our mental health, overall health, and safety,” Nakehk’o continued.

As of Monday afternoon, the petition had garnered nearly 300 signatures.

 

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As the Yellowknifer’s crime reporter, it’s my job to keep readers up to speed on all-things “cops and courts” related. From house fires and homicides to courtroom clashes, it’s my responsibility to be there - day or night, rain or shine. When I’m not at court gathering stories, I’m in the office, making calls to lawyers, emailing RCMP and tracking down sources. After hours, I rely on the public to let me know what’s happening and where. Entering my second winter in Yellowknife since leaving my hometown of Peterborough, Ont., in October 2017, everyday on this beat continues to be challenging, rewarding and fulfilling. Got a story? Call me at (867) 766-8288 or shoot me an email at editorial@nnsl.com.

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