Due to funding woes, Nunavut internet provider faces “serious risk”
“Without immediate support we will be forced to take truly unwanted actions”
SSi Canada, owner and operator of the Qiniq and SSi Mobile networks in Nunavut, said this week that because their last batch of federal subsidy money ran out in July, they’ll have to impose big price increases.
At the same time, SSi said that it has yet to get a response from the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commision to a funding application they submitted in November 2019, in partnership with the Qikiqtaaluk Corp.
“With 67 per cent of Nunavut households outside of Iqaluit connected via Qiniq, the situation has become urgent,” SSi said in a news release.
That CRTC’s broadband fund makes $750 million available over five years to improve services in rural and remote regions. SSi says the funding they’ve applied for would extend and increase Qiniq’s service levels for another four years.
But without that subsidy, Qiniq will have to raise prices to survive.
“We won’t mince words; without a rapid response from those in charge, the price you currently pay for internet access will increase dramatically,” the company said in a notice to all customers issued earlier this week.
So SSi is asking its customers to send an urgent letter of support to three politicians: Navdeep Bains, the minister of innovation, science and economic development; Maryam Monsef, the minister of rural economic development; and Nunavut Premier Joe Savikataaq.
To help customers do that, they’ve provided a sample draft letter on their website.
“Together, our voices will help ensure that the federal departments with the power to resolve this issue realize just how critically urgent it is,” their message to customers said.
Through Qiniq, SSi has offered satellite-based wireless internet access in every Nunavut community since 2005.
And after investing $75 million of its own money over three years, the company started the SSi Mobile smartphone service in 2018.
“We are truly sorry to share such terrible news, but we are out of time. We continue to work aggressively to find solutions for the thousands of households dependent on Qiniq service, but without immediate support we will be forced to take truly unwanted actions,” Jeff Philipp, SSi’s CEO, is quoted as saying in the news release.
Nunavut Senator Dennis Patterson recently raised the issue in the Senate.
“The lack of new funding assistance means that thousands of households are at imminent risk of losing the internet or having to pay huge amounts,” Patterson said on Oct. 28.