Territory's online traffic is 'highest; in country and growing

Federal cash to broaden Nunavut bandwidth, NDBC hopes


Nunavut Broadband Development Corp. wants to know who will help them spend $21 million in federal money to improve internet access in Nunavut.

David Smith, president of NBDC told delegates at the corporation's annual general meeting in Iqaluit this past Monday, the money, announced last month as part of federal infrastructure spending, will go to support a variety of initiatives to help with broadband access across Nunavut.

So NBDC is issuing a request for proposals. It is seeking companies to provide ways to help improve access in the communities, and to help Nunavut make more efficient use of the bandwidth it does have.

NBDC's planned initiatives aim to meet a variety of needs already identified in consultations held across Nunavut, including:

  • connecting all Nunavut classrooms to the internet, giving students and teachers high-speed access to bandwidth strictly for educational use, not for administration;
  • developing "time-shift" services to move large files by satellite, either to other Nunavut communities, or to or from the south. This could include maps, X-rays, educational videos, and back-up files of financial data. The files could be loaded to a local server, then shipped out late at night when internet use is lower;
  • options that would allow customers to "meet online" with simultaneous video, audio and document-sharing connections;
  • local connections between servers within communities (like Qiniq and Northwestel). Now, an email travelling across the street but between two servers might go first by satellite to Yellowknife, then by fibre optics to Ottawa, and finally by satellite back to the originating community, thus wasting valuable satellite bandwidth.

NBDC is seeking one or more competitive private sector vendors to provide those services. The winning bidders will receive the federal funding only to match dollar-for-dollar purchases of the services by private and public internet users.

In other words, the service provider will be able to offer a meet-online option to a hospital department, for example, at half it's true cost, because money from the federal infrastructure program will cover the other half.

Inuit Child First, Indigenous Services Canada

NBDC is convinced vendors will find no lack of demand for these subsidized products, once they are developed and available.

Back in 2005, during negotiations with Ottawa and based on surveys in the community, NBDC predicted it could have up to 5,000 customers in Nunavut by now.

Ottawa said that was impossible, and was only willing to help underwrite 2,000 customers, through the Qiniq network, established by NBDC but operated by SSI Micro from Yellowknife.

But Qiniq's growth has far surpassed federal expectations – and has met NBDC's. The internet provider already has about 4,500 customers, and that number is growing.

If you add in the other servers, like Northwestel and Polarnet, Smith said there are probably close to 6,000 internet connections in Nunavut. And this in a territory that only has about 8,000 households.

That's a higher penetration that probably anywhere else in Canada, he said, except perhaps Kanata, which is known as Canada's hi-tech centre.

Baffin Business Development Corporation Annual General Meeting

It makes sense, Smith said. Anyone who lives in Nunavut knows how important internet service is to them. It enables vital business, government and personal connections between people and organizations separated by miles and miles of space, with hugely expensive air travel often the only other viable option.

So now, over $9 million of the new federal funding will go simply to pay for more bandwidth in Nunavut until 2012. Other funding breakdowns include close to $7 million for additional satellite capacity for the meet-online program, more than $2 million for the classroom hookups, nearly $2 million for the time shift options, plus administrative and other costs.

In 2012, all the federal funding committed so far "will fall off the cliff," Smith said. But he is confident NBDC will be able to arrange more support by that cut-off date.

Smith said the major challenge for the non-profit corporation – and the reasoning behind the RFP – is to find ways to manage satellite bandwidth more efficiently in Nunavut.

Through the miracle of fibre optics, Smith told Nunatsiaq News, he now gets four megabytes a second of bandwidth delivered to his basement in Ottawa.

It costs a frightening $24,000 a month to have that much bandwidth delivered by satellite to Nunavut.

And those prices will never drop to anywhere remotely close to the cost of fibre-optic cable delivery.

Share This Story

(0) Comments