'All four corporations see the current impasse as a threat'

QEC-broadband spat irks birthright firms


Nunavut's four Inuit birthright corporations are trying to use their political muscle to force Qulliq Energy Corp. to settle its dispute with the Nunavut Broadband Development Corp., they said in a statement issued last week and in a letter to Ed Picco, the energy minister.

"All four corporations see the current impasse as a threat to their own business interests as well to the investment climate of Nunavut," the statement said.

Most of the broadband corporation's wireless base stations and servers – used to power the Qiniq network – sit on QEC property.

But the broadband group has paid no rent to the QEC, and has not paid for its share of certain pieces of equipment inherited from an old network that the QEC once used.

Because of this, the QEC takes the position that the broadband group is a freeloading tenant that enjoys the use of QEC property and services but pays no rent.

To drive that point home, QEC officials told the broadband group that until that situation is fixed, the broadband group's contractor, SSI Micro, will not be allowed to install new broadband equipment or services on QEC property.

But the QEC does say that SSI Micro technicians are allowed to enter QEC premises to fix existing equipment.

The broadband group responded with a lawsuit filed this past July.

In it, they allege that the QEC's actions are delaying a $500,000 maintenance tour of all 25 Nunavut communities that SSI Micro technicians were to have launched this past June.

The broadband group also alleges that the Qiniq customers may soon suffer from deteriorating services and even system failures because of the QEC's actions.

Because of this, the four birthright corporations say Inuit living in small Nunavut communities could lose internet access, threatening their economic development.

Three of four firms – the Qikiqtaaluk Corp., the Sakku Corp, and the Kitikmeot Corp. – act as service providers for the Qiniq system in many communities.

And their statement also says the Sakku and Kitikmeot firms have "made substantial investments in internet access over a period of years."

At the same time, their "sister company," the Atuqtuarvik Corp., has sunk millions of dollars worth of loans into the broadband corporation. If the Qiniq network were to fail, those loans would be in jeopardy.

"The message I think SSI Micro is getting from Qulliq is that years of effort and millions of dollars of investment can be obliterated at whim by bureaucrats, as if Nunavut was some kind of banana republic," Fred Hunt, the boss of Nunasi Corp., said in the press release.

An injunction request from the broadband group that would temporarily allow their technicians to enter QEC premises was to have been spoken to in court this past week.

But a hearing on that injunction motion isn't likely to be held until September.

And as of this week, there was no sign that the two sides were any closer to resolving their dispute.

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