A map of the potential route for a fibre optic cable project that will connect Japan to Finland or Norway. The cable is expected to be 14,000 kilometres, with 900 of those going through Nunavut. (Photo courtesy of the Nunavut Impact Review Board)

Fibre optic cable survey in High Arctic gets review board approval

Involves project spanning from Asia to Europe; federal OK still needed for survey

By David Lochead

Preliminary work that could potentially lead to a fibre optic cable in the High Arctic does not require a review to proceed, the Nunavut Impact Review Board has recommended.

The review board issued its decision on Dec. 22 and now the proposal awaits approval from Northern Affairs Minister Daniel Vandal. That process could take up to 45 days.

“We’re pleased with the decision and excited to be moving ahead,” said Ik Icard, the spokesperson for Far North Digital LLC, the company proposing the survey.

Far North Digital is working with its Canadian affiliate, True North Global Networks LP and Finnish network provider Cinia to connect 14,000 kilometres of fibre optic cable stretching from Japan eastward to Norway or Finland.

The survey is intended to determine the best route to lay the cable, with 900 kilometres of it expected to go through Nunavut waters near the communities of Resolute Bay, Arctic Bay and Pond Inlet.

Part of the plan is to allow these nearby communities to connect to the fibre optic cable once the project is complete, Icard said.

To actually begin laying cable, Far North Digital will have to file a separate proposal with the impact review board.

For now, the survey will involve a crew sailing through the Northwest Passage to assess the the bottom of the ocean. The crew will use a sonar scan and a cone penetrometer, a metal rod that hits the ocean floor to assess its soil quality.

The federal and territorial governments did list some concerns about the survey, including its potential impact on the marine habitat and environment, and possible interference with shipping routes.

The response to the proposal also states consultation with communities is needed.

Icard said his company wants to hear any potential community concerns, and receive input on the best ways to complete the survey without coming into contact with or harming marine wildlife.

In its response filed with the review board, the company states it will avoid migratory bird sanctuaries and the Nirjutiqarvik National Wildlife Area, which is located in the High Arctic, approximately 20 kilometres from the southern tip of Ellesmere Island.

The company also states it will develop an impact tracker for its survey, and that it is aware of the incoming designation of Tallurutiup Imanga as a marine conservation area of the coasts of Pond Inlet, Arctic Bay and Resolute Bay.

Community consultation is planned to start this month and continue until at least June.

Far North Digital has already had discussions with Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. as well as Indigenous organizations in the Inuvialuit settlement region, according to Icard.

In a previous interview, Icard said laying cable is not an especially daunting task considering there is approximately 1.4 million kilometres of fibre optic cable laid across the world already.

Surveys for the fibre optic cable have already begun in other parts of the world and Far North Digital plans for construction to start in 2024, with it in service by the end of 2026.

Icard said Far North Digital intends to submit its proposal for laying the cable to the review board this spring.

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(9) Comments:

  1. Posted by inuk on

    lets just hope Nortwestel don’t monopolize fibre internet when its available. promising 300mbs of internet but giving 15mbs for $200

  2. Posted by Taxpayer on

    Fibre optic communications has a much lower carbon footprint than satellite communications, and does not harm the ozone layer with burnt rocket fuel. Fibre optic communications has a much lower carbon footprint than copper cabling also. Enhanced virtual communications between Asia and Europe offers the opportunity to reduce business travel, which again would reduce carbon emissions.

    Yet, one of the “sensitive” spots the project has to consider is Tallurutiup Emanga, the main threat to which is Climate Change and loss of multi-year pack ice. How ironic is that?

    At some point, insular Nunavut is going to have to take “act local-think global” to heart.

  3. Posted by Elon on

    Starlink is a satellite internet constellation operated by SpaceX, providing satellite Internet access coverage to 45 countries. It also aims for global mobile phone service after 2023. SpaceX started launching Starlink satellites in 2019. Starlink offers unlimited internet to users. By the time this group gets approval for the Fibre optic cable, all of Nunavut will be using Starlink. The better technology making older technology obsolete.

    • Posted by starlink user on

      Starlink isn’t better than fibre. Your Starlink connection connects to the wider Internet via fibre when it hits a ground station in Southern Canada. I’m a Starlink user in Iqaluit and will switch over to a fibre-based connection as soon as it is available here.

      • Posted by frank on

        and dont forget to mention that starlink users are constantly dealing with disconnection as its not really meant to work up north yet. i am pretty sure if fibre optic cable does go north, there wont be any issues with constant disconnection. i would go with the cable too.

    • Posted by John K on

      Huge carbon footprint and a mentally unstable billionaire owner are reason enough for me to pass.

      Every user I know has regrets. Bring on the cable.

      • Posted by Starlink User on

        Am a user of starlink, don’t approve of that Elongated Muskrat, but I have ZERO regrets.

        How can I regret downloading 1 TB of data in a month?

        The people complaining about disconnects are GAMERS.

      • Posted by Except the rest… on

        You think the billionaires who own the other telecoms and execs that run them are all mentally stable? I have some news for you…

  4. Posted by G-man Choi on

    Just drop the cable already, all this BS about hurting marine animals and all the other bureaucrat BS is ridiculously exhausting. The cable is everywhere else on the planet with no issues, why does everything in the NORTH have to be a big pile of BS.


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