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You don't have mail
Some Yellowknifers' e-mails not being delivered; IT company owner says Northwestel servers to blame

Kirsten Fenn
Northern News Services
Friday, January 13, 2017

The owner of a Yellowknife-based IT company is raising concerns about the functionality of Northwestel's e-mail servers after several of his clients began complaining last week that their e-mails weren't being delivered.

NNSL photo/graphic

Andrew Cunningham provides IT support to people across Yellowknife. He said many of his clients who are Northwestel Internet users have been having issues sending e-mails over the last week. - Kirsten Fenn/NNSL photo

Andrew Cunningham, who runs Gray Jay Enterprises, said he believes some of Northwestel's e-mail servers have been blacklisted - meaning they have been marked as possible spammers - and that e-mails passing through these servers are not getting sent as a result.

"Unfortunately, this affects many of my clients," Cunningham said.

Cunningham works for many business owners who rely on e-mail communication.

When their e-mails don't go through, they lose out on business, he said.

Rita Chamberlin of Ron's Equipment Rental and Industrial Supply, said her company has been having e-mail problems since Jan. 2.

"Our e-mails weren't going through. We kept getting kickbacks that we were on a blacklist, so I called Andrew," Chamberlin said.

"And he said, 'You're not. Northwestel is.'"

Chamberlin uses e-mail regularly to respond to client requests for quotes. When e-mails don't get delivered, it causes problems, she said, adding she has been trying to work around the issue but it's been frustrating. When she phoned Northwestel about the problem on Monday, she said they told her they were working on the problem but weren't sure when it would be fixed.

Some of Cunningham's clients aren't as lucky as Chamberlin.

He said many aren't receiving bounce-back replies warning their e-mails aren't being delivered.

"You don't even know that your e-mail didn't arrive," he said.

Yellowknifer has been experiencing similar issues with e-mail delivery by Northwestel.

The way Cunningham explains it, e-mails are sent through a server which then passes the message onto another server that determines where the message's final destination is. That receiving server usually checks incoming mail to ensure it is from a legitimate source and not on a blacklist, he said.

When his clients began having problems with their e-mail, he said he used an online tool that scans blacklists to check whether Northwestel was on them.

He said he determined a few of their servers were on a blacklist, although he doesn't know if that's the case with all of them.

Northwestel spokesperson Andrew Rankin said he could not discuss the details of the company's e-mail infrastructure or whether its servers had been blacklisted.

"We are aware that some Northwestel webmail users are currently having difficulty sending e-mail to certain e-mail addresses," Rankin stated to Yellowknifer via e-mail.

"We are taking steps working with other e-mail providers to rectify this in the coming days."

Yellowknifer was unable to determine by press time how many of Northwestel's customers may be affected by the problem or when the issue began.

Cunningham said it is possible to be removed from a blacklist but that it can take a few days.

"We're kind of handcuffed by Northwestel," he said, explaining that although many of his clients who use Northwestel Internet have their own in-house mail servers that could deliver messages, the telecommunications company requires them to relay their mail through its own servers.

"So if there are any problems with Northwestel's servers, then it affects those clients," he said.

"Unfortunately their policy, which is supposed to stop spamming, also restricts legitimate users."

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