Northwestel avoids CRTC fines, promises $5M in Northern infrastructure upgrades
Communications regulator says settlement will make a difference in Indigenous communities
The North's main internet and phone provider avoided having to pay fines to Canada's telecommunications regulator by agreeing to $5 million in unplanned upgrades to its northern infrastructure.
The CRTC says Northwestel will spend $3 million to bring fibre optic services to offices, health centres and governments in Indigenous communities in Yukon, the Northwest Territories and northern British Columbia.
Meanwhile, the remaining $2 million will be spent to expand cell service on highways and roads in Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut.
The settlement comes after Northwestel charged for services without getting approval from the CRTC over a period of seven years. The CRTC called the violations a "systemic disregard for the company's regulatory obligations and the commission's authority."
Officials at Northwestel flagged the issue to the CRTC and have since reformed the company's processes, but they were unable to convince the regulator to approve the rates retroactively.
In its ruling, the CRTC said it determined that a fine would not necessarily make a difference in promoting compliance, but that the commission and Northwestel agreed the upgrades were a fair compromise.
As part of the deal, Northwestel has pledged to finish the upgrades within the next three years.
The company is consulting with territorial governments and local officials to determine a detailed plan for where it will spend the $5 million, a company spokesman wrote in an email to CBC News.