Nunavut internet users lag far behind Canada
“We’ve got a fundamental inability to engage in that network”
Internet users in the North could fall behind if the amount of available bandwidth doesn’t keep up increasingly high-tech websites, a public forum hosted by the Canadian Internet Registration Authority heard Nov. 15.
Lower costs, greater access and stability of the federal funding that subsidizes northern bandwidth were also identified as issues by about 15 participants, mostly from business, media and non-profit organizations.
Tony Rose, owner of Nunageek Solutions, told the forum that while internet speeds in Iqaluit have grown over the last seven years, the gap between North and South continues to expand.
Meanwhile, websites grow ever richer in bandwidth-hogging content like streaming video and Java-based graphics.
“We’ve got a fundamental inability to engage in that network,” Rose said. “At some point there has to be a physical piece of (fibre optic) cable.”
But that fibre optic link would be expensive. In the meantime, Nunavut will have to manage with a satellite-based connection.
But booming demand for internet means bandwidth bottlenecks as the number of users sending emails, downloading music and watching videos on YouTube.
Hal Timar of Baffin Regional Chamber of Commerce said internet providers should “balance what people need versus what people want” and find ways to favour commercial and government web traffic over iTunes and porn.
Timar is also worried what happens to Nunavut’s subsidized Qiniq network when federal subsidies run out in 2015.
But Timar and Adamee Itorcheak, who used to run an internet service provider in Iqaluit, both said connection to the internet is now a basic right.
That’s in line with countries like Estonia and Finland, where the government has ruled that a basic level of internet service be available to all citizens.
That’s something that’s along way off in Canada, despite promises by various governments to extend broadband access into rural and remote communities.
The federal government is also working on plans to launch new satellites that would improve internet access in the Arctic.
Still, Itorcheak said Nunavut should consider itself fortunate to have some semblance of high-speed internet, when many rural areas of southern Canada still have slower dialup connections.
“We’re more connected than many southern Canadians,” he said.
The Nov. 15 forum was organized by CIRA, a non-profit group that manages the .ca domain for websites based in Canada, as part of a series of events across the country.
Mark Buell, the communications manager for CIRA, said the consultations mark the first time Canadians have gotten the chance to weigh in on how the internet should develop.
“We wanted to get Canadians together to talk about the direction the internet should take,” Buell said, and the impact the internet has on “other public policy areas” like healthcare, economic development and education.
Findings from the meetings will go into a white paper which CIRA will present to the Internet Governance Forum (IGF), a United Nations body which meets to discuss internet issues on a global level.