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If broadband is essential, so is its funding: KRG to CRTC

“Those most affected by the lack of quality telecommunications are often Aboriginal groups”


In a letter penned to the CRTC, Nunavik's Tamaani internet provider says remote regions in Canada lack the stable funding and and business model to offer affordable high-speed internet. (TAMAANI PHOTO)

In a letter penned to the CRTC, Nunavik’s Tamaani internet provider says remote regions in Canada lack the stable funding and and business model to offer affordable high-speed internet. (TAMAANI PHOTO)

The Kativik Regional Government has urged Canada’s telecommunications agency to consider a way in which infrastructure used to deploy broadband internet could rely on long-term funding — particularly in Canada’s North.

The KRG, which oversees Tamaani, one of Nunavik’s major internet providers, says the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) should review the role of broadband internet as an essential service, given there’s no guarantee of adequate funding.

Tamaani’s senior coordinator of programs and partnerships, Jean-François Dumoulin, penned the July 13 submission to the CRTC, as part of the agency’s basic service objective consultation — a nation-wide effort to modernize telecoms regulations.

The problem in remote regions like Nunavik is simply the cost of doing business, Dumoulin wrote.

“Of primary concern is the high cost of deploying telecommunications infrastructure, combined with the low market potential of very remote regions,” Dumoulin wrote in the KRG’s submission.

That guarantees that any model in a region like Nunavik that relies solely on market forces will be doomed to failure, Dumoulin wrote.

In saying that he quoted the Telecommunications Act requirement “to render reliable and affordable telecommunications services of high quality accessible to Canadians.”

Because there is not yet a business case for broadband in the North, Nunavik continues to rely, in large part, on government subsidies.

Over the last decade, Nunavik has invested about $50 million in internet services — including $20 million of its own money.

But a pre-feasibility study that looked into building a high-capacity network to meet the long terms needs of Nunavik pegged the cost of that project at anywhere between $100 million to $150 million.

Tamaani is currently waiting for a response to a subsidy application to Industry Canada.

But this, and other subsidies, have a finite term, the KRG submission says, noting that those funding programs cover only capital costs for network upgrades, and offer little support to defray the high broadband operating costs in remote communities.

“Those most affected by the lack of quality telecommunications infrastructure are often Aboriginal groups who consider that ownership and control of critical infrastructure in our communities is linked to Aboriginal self-determination,” Dumoulin said.

And Nunavik has made its needs known in more way than one.

As part of region-wide consultation which culminated in the Parnasimautik document, sectors such as health and education cited limited bandwidth as an impediment to social development and service delivery.

Aging telephone infrastructure and a limited number of telephone circuits has also caused problems, Dumoulin noted, while cellular phone service has been slow to come to the region.

For those reasons, the KRG also said that regulatory action could ensure that service providers are accountable to the communities they serve, Dumoulin said

The KRG has asked to be present at the CRTC’s review of basic telecommunications services, set to be held in Gatineau, Que., in April 2016.

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