The modern age of communication has been badly interrupted by spotty and undependable Internet and cell services to Rankin Inlet during the past few months.
The community also saw its Canada Post outlet forced to close for more than a business week due to a staff shortage caused by the recent departure of two longtime employees.
The failure of communication services has meant a lot less time connected to the system for local users, and that’s been costing one longtime Rankin businessman big bucks.
Kativik general-and-hardware-store-owner Ron Roach said Northwestel can issue all the statements it wants about having technicians working on the issue, but every hour he is unable to connect to the system is costing his store revenue.
He said it’s disappointing to have slipped back to these levels of communication and he hopes the flaw in the system is quickly addressed and soon up-and-running flawlessly.
“I’d say we’ve been dealing with these issues since this past January,” said Roach. “And it’s completely unpredictable as to when it’s coming on or when it’s going off.
“The down time hurts me big time because my debit machines work off the Internet. Customers come in, try to use their debit card three or four times, then leave what they were buying and just walk out.
“It also takes me a lot longer now when I go on-line to order my hardware or groceries – and there’s lots of times it only takes about half your order and then it kicks you off.”
Roach said the whole situation, from a business standpoint, has gone beyond frustrating.
He said he’s reached the point where he has absolutely no confidence remaining in the Northwestel system or its customer service department.
“I have phoned Northwestel at least 10 times and have got no more information other than the company stating it has an Internet problem in Rankin Inlet that is beyond its capacity to fix at this moment, but it’s working on it.
“I’ve started bringing my Qiniq (a local company that uses satellite technology) modem into the store and using my personal account to keep things going, so we’ll see what happens from here.
“I’ve asked Northwestel if it will reimburse me for my costs to have to run Qiniq at the store and was told no.
“I also asked how much of a rebate we could expect and was given no answer. The billing department wouldn’t even return my calls.”
Roach said if other companies are making their Internet services work here – and Northwestel’s is not – then that company has a major problem.
He said Northwestel should just be up front and honest with its customers as to the nature of the problem and how long it will take to fix.
“Just be honest with us. That’s all we ask,” said Roach.
“Our store (Kativik) has been losing an average of $10,000 to $15,000 in sales per month due to the Internet being down all the time.
“I’ve been losing more in one month than I’d pay for a whole year of Internet services, and not having a dependable connection has been terrible on my business.
“People just don’t carry cash anymore, so I depend upon having a dependable Internet connection to be able to process the majority of my sales, which are done by debit.”
Northwestel has publicly confirmed network-wide problems in Rankin and hoped they would be resolved soon.