Yet Another Failure with Northwestel’s Internet Usage Tool [update]

I just got back from a from a spring break vacation and figured that I’d better check my internet usage since the person who had been watching my house for me is a bit of a Netflix addict.

Unfortunately, Northwestel’s internet usage tool hasn’t been updated since last Tuesday:

Is this company for real? On March 1, I wrote a detailed description of many of the things that I consider to be wrong with this tool, and made some recommendations as to how Northwestel could improve it.

Unfortunately, rather than take my critique to heart, the company is moving its tool in the other direction and letting it get even worse. (Or maybe they’re just too busy picking on their customers on Facebook to notice the usage tool has stopped working.)

No update in 5 days? That’s just gross negligence, particularly when you consider many of us could be getting punished for overuse right now and not even know it.


So it turns out not to be negligence, nor a failure in the Northwestel system, but rather that other failing common to Northwestel’s internet usage tool: bad design.

The modem that I was checking had been unplugged by the person taking care of my house on March 22 to avoid me being punished for any internet data overuse. As a result, Northwestel’s system stopped tracking it at that point. The system, it seems, doesn’t track zero values for periods of time that it can’t see a modem; instead, it tracks nothing at all. In fact, it stops tracking.

And therein lies the bad design: in the user’s mind, time carried on and the last five days have been zero-use days, and the user would expect to see that reported. Since the modem is technically still active as an account, the user maintains a mental model of time passing and the associated use, or lack thereof, of the modem over that period of time.

So when Northwestel’s system reports that it has not tracked anything associated with the modem for five days, there is a disconnect with the model of events that is in the user’s mind. The user expects to see at least an indication that the system has been operating in the interim, not that there have been no updates in 5 days. The user needs assurance that the system in remaining operative, even if there has been nothing to track.

Of course, if you further associate those expectations with the fact that the tool is historically prone to failure, then the user assumes that the system has again failed. And that’s what I did: assumed further failure, based on a history of it.

Apologies go out to Northwestel for suggesting negligence, but this is just more evidence to support the fact that the company badly needs to overhaul a poorly designed and implemented tool.

2 thoughts on “Yet Another Failure with Northwestel’s Internet Usage Tool [update]

  1. Well mine hasn’t been updated since the 25th. Frustrating considering the weekend is when we use the internet the most, and being the end of the month we are right up there at the end of our bandwidth.

  2. Well, ours seems to be glitched out horribly. It is the 25th of April, and it says we used 103.73GB and owe 733 dollars on top of the monthly fee. But, if you click on the day by day usage meter for the month, the numbers don’t add up to 103.73, they add up to 53.686, which is still wrong, we don’t use that much! Like some days are saying there was 5GB used, which would be impossible for us to use all together! Plus for a lot of the time, we’ve been gone, and still see charges.

    Our router is password protected and all of our computers have virus protection and we scanned them with multiple programs and found no bad things. This is the first time we are having an issue with NWtel, and are worrying that when we call and confront them, we will get the cold-shoulder and be told that we did use that much, when we all know for a fact we didn’t, we don’t even hit the monthly cap every month!

    Very frustrating

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