Everybody has at least one “NorthwesTel Sucks!” story. A couple of weeks back we all got a new one.
As any customer so unfortunate as to be incarcerated in NorthwesTel’s service structure knows, it’s a constant struggle to live within the prison of painfully low data caps that the company provides.
Even NorthwesTel’s most expensive internet package offers a data limit so low that it’s nearly impossible to avoid exceeding it in this age of Netflix, YouTube and Steam.
And if you do go over? Oh boy, you could mortgage a small house with the fiscal punishment NorthwesTel will inflict.
To help us avoid being beaten down with those overuse penalties, the company provides us with an ad hoc tool for keeping track of how much internet data we use.
The problem is, it’s difficult to use, it’s undependable, and it’s prone to failure.
So none of us should be surprised that just last month this crude data monitoring and alert system that NorthwesTel duct-taped together a few years back inexplicably broke.
For an undetermined period of time in September, we were all left in the dark as we approached and exceeded the data limits on our internet accounts.
The data use monitoring tool is an absolutely essential service that all of us depend on. And NorthwesTel failed to keep it running. What’s more, it failed even to let us know it was broken.
When this tool breaks, we all risk being slammed with massive overuse penalties.
And during that downtime, NorthwesTel was free to apply penalty fees against our internet accounts with prejudice.
The company doesn’t seem to care, though.
Or maybe that’s the whole point, because those penalties are payable directly to NorthwesTel.
The breakdown in Northwestel’s internet data measuring tool is just the latest, and cruelest, example of this company’s inability to deliver a quality internet service to northerners.
When a tool as essential as this is broken, and neither explanation, nor discount, nor – at bare minimum – an apology is offered, it demonstrates how little regard NorthwesTel has for its customers.
Over the years the company has implored us, encouraged us, very nearly even begged us to keep track of our data use with its online tool.
Then, when it all of a sudden stops working, it tells us we should never have even depended on it in the first place.
Last month on CBC Radio, while sharing the company’s lame excuses for the tool’s breakdown, NorthwesTel spokesperson Eric Clement stated plainly that we shouldn’t even rely on the tool.
Talk about a bipolar marketing disorder.
So which is it, Northwestel? Do we trust you, or don’t we?
I think it’s clear: we don’t. Or more to the point, we can’t.
After all, if this company is unable even keep a simple thing like a data measuring tool operational, how can we be certain that it’s vigilant in actually measuring the data itself?
What’s more, how do we know the company is not topping things up – either accidentally or intentionally – by 5% or 10% or 20% every month and skimming a bit more into its revenue stream through overuse penalties?
We don’t know.
In fact, there’s no way to verify anything NorthwesTel does with data.
There’s no system in place that can provide us assurance that Northwestel’s data measurement methods are sound, accurate or truthful.
There’s no public regulation or legislation in place to govern or verify how Northwestel goes about this aspect of its business.
There’s no third party we can go to and ask for an audit on the way Northwestel measures and bills for data.
The company owns this massive closed system, end to end. It is responsible for delivering the data, measuring it, and billing for it.
And the company does it all behind closed doors, without any public accountability whatsoever.
So when any portion of the system breaks down, the company clearly feels it doesn’t have to offer an explanation or an apology to anyone, much less its so-called “customers.”
So I’m going to throw down the glove: Northwestel, prove that we can trust you.
Prove that the services you’re delivering are what we’ve been lead to believe we’re receiving.
Prove to us that the exorbitant prices you’re charging us for internet data are justified.
Prove to us that the way you’re measuring that data is accurate and verifiable.
Prove to us that we can actually depend on you for being truthful in your overuse penalty practices.
Prove to us that the over-use penalties we’re paying are worth it.
As it stands, very few of us believe that you’re being truthful in the way you deliver, measure, and bill for data.
Other regions of the world have these things called a market and competition to prove value in services.
But we’re not so fortunate in the North.
Instead we have the equivalent of a public utility operating as a closed monopoly.
And it’s free to construct an artifice of value as it sees fit, truthful or not.
Our trust is gone, NorthwesTel.
We no longer see value in the services you provide. We just see a big stick that is used to beat us down.
Time to turn that stick into a handshake, NorthwesTel. Prove we can trust you.
Originally published in the Yukon News on Friday, October 11, 2013.