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Northwestel short on reasons for data usage spike in Iqaluit

Stories of discontent regarding Northwestel usage spikes earlier in the month continued into the week of Oct. 15, as some users reported leaving the service provider while others are still waiting to resolve their issues.

One customer who upgraded to the new Northwestel 100 GB package stated Oct. 10 they received a usage notice indicating they'd reached 95 GB.

"I signed up for the new maximum package on the 1st. Something is wrong with this for sure," they stated. The customer later provided an update to Nunavut News: "Just cancelled my service with Northwestel. Never going back with them for Internet."

Thomas Rohner twice signed up with Northwestel, and has twice quit the company, the last time a month or so ago. He first signed up in 2014.

"From the get-go, their tracking of my usage did not seem proportional to my own tracking. I called them a number of times with this concern, but they said there were no problems on their end so either I really was using that bandwidth or someone in my neighbourhood was pirating Internet from me," he said.

Northwestel customers in Iqaluit continue to wonder what might be the cause of unusual data usage spikes, while some have quit the company in frustration. Michele LeTourneau/NNSL photo.
Northwestel customers in Iqaluit continue to wonder what might be the cause of unusual data usage spikes, while some have quit the company in frustration. Michele LeTourneau/NNSL photo.

That was the first time Rohner quit Northwestel.

"(I was) fed up with their expensive rates, even more expensive overage rates and the consistent suspicion that my bandwidth was not properly tracked on their end. I tried another provider for a while, but the Internet signal with this other provider was so poor that eventually I switched back to Northwestel," he said.

But he experienced the same issues the second time around.

"There was no way that I was using the bandwidth that, when I logged into my Northwestel account, they said I was using. Even when we weren't home, our devices shut off, we were using large amounts of bandwidth, according to Northwestel.

"Dealing with Northwestel I just got used to the feeling of being ripped off. With a different provider now, I haven't had that same experience."

By October 18, Erika Hansford's Internet data usage had soared to unprecedented heights.

"As of today our account states that we have used 152 GB of data. We have the 60 GB plan. Our usage in the last few days has been over 15 GB per day. I have reported to the tech support and have a ticket number but otherwise have not heard anything," she said.

"I will say that the customer service agent was very understanding and professional. He asked if we played gaming systems. We do not."


Systems tools are working, says Northwestel

Linda Ham tried to get to the bottom of her extraordinary Northwestel usage.

"I brought my router into my office yesterday (Oct. 15), as there is a very good computer geek who works with me. He changed the password on my router, just in case someone did, in fact, hack in and was causing our usage to skyrocket Thursday to Saturday," said Ham.

"He also is very aware of this situation with Northwestel and says that there is no way this is simply updating of either Apple or Windows 10, and this has to be a Northwestel issue."

In a 35-minute telephone conversation, Northwestel's director of communications Andrew Anderson was scant on detail on what may have caused the dramatic usage spikes in Iqaluit, other than updates.

"I can't discuss what we're seeing on a customer level. It's not in our practice to do and not in our commitment to customers," he said.

"Our very first priority is to ensure that our customers receive the service that they've subscribed to. We've identified some things which are affecting traffic on the network, which we've communicated."

Anderson was referring to a statement the company released informing their clientele of Apple updates and Netflix streaming quality.

"We're encouraging any customer who is experiencing an issue with their service to contact our customer care centre and we're working through those on a case-by-case basis," he added.

Repeatedly asked what other issues aside from updates have been identified by the company, Anderson would only reply that he could not discuss specific customer information through the media.

Anderson also said he could not disclose how many Iqalungmiut have complained about the usage spikes. He said the company has several systems that look at network level activity.

"And we also have tools that we provide to customers to manage individual-level activity. When we hear of issues, we do go back and ensure that both those systems of tools are working as they should. There's no indication that there's anything offside in any of those," he said.

The overages don't make sense to Linda Ham.

"I was like a lunatic over the summer ... ensuring the adult children did not go over the 60 gigs, after we got hit hard in June when they first arrived home. We managed fairly well for July and August. The three left end of August. For this over-usage to be happening with just me and my husband in the house with no gaming and very little Netflix use is simply wrong. And something is definitely wrong."

Anderson said if a customer is unhappy with the service they've received, they can access escalation mechanisms, such as contacting the office of the president via the company's website.