ISP’s still enraged with GNWT-Ardicom deal

The NWT’s small Internet providers are afraid they’ll be left in the ditch as everyone else whizzes by them on the information highway.


IQALUIT – At the same time as Ardicom’s new high-speed digital communication network promises to bring 58 NWT communities onto the fast lanes of the information highway, a lot of home-grown northern businesses are saying the same network may leave them stranded in the ditch with empty pockets.

The NWT’s small Internet service providers, most of them small local businesses that provide dial-up Internet access in communities like Iqaluit, Fort Smith, and Cambridge Bay, all say that the current Ardicom-GNWT contract threatens their very existence.

That’s because the GNWT is using the Ardicom network to supply its own data communications services – an arrangement that the NWT’s ISP’s fear will cut them out.

“This violates everything the GNWT says about community based economic development,” says Don Jaque of Auroranet, a company that provides Internet access in Fort Smith.

Loss of business

Jacque said that in its present form, the Ardicom contract will cause his company to lose 70-80 per cent of its potential business in Fort Smith.

That business, Jaques says, is in the form of services that his company – and not Ardicom – ought to be offering to various GNWT departments and agencies located in his community.

“There are a lot of private-sector solutions that the GNWT is not considering,” Jaque said.

And that, Jaque said, could stifle the development of a home-grown high-tech industry in the northern territories.

“They’re already hiring their own expertise within the government. I thought they were supposed to be cutting back,” Jaque said.

He also said his company has been getting letters from government departments with whom his company has been doing business, saying that they won’t need Auroranet’s services anymore because of the Ardicom network.

Two fruitless meetings

Representatives of the NWT’s ISP’s have met twice with the GNWT to air their gripes.

The first meeting, a teleconference held Oct. 14, was “ineffective,” Jaque said.

And a second face-to-face meeting, held last week between the ISP’s and Gordon Robinson of the GNWT’s financial managment board secretratiat, didn’t bring the two sides any closer together.

“It was basically Gordon Robinson on one side and all of us on the other,” Jaque said.

He said the government fails to recognize that home-grown high technology industry has grown up in northern Canada over the past two years, and that its contract with Ardicom doesn’t acknowledge that.

And he said Ardicom also fails to recognize that many ISP’s would rather buy bandwidth from providers other than Northwestel.

Ardicom too expensive?

He said, for example, that his company is now using bandwidth obtained from the Cancom satellite company to connect its customers to the Internet.

“They’re prices are cheaper than what Ardicom has quoted us,” Jaque said.

Jaque said the GNWT should rethink the idea of building a big “proprietary” network and try to find a different vision that takes into account the existence of small businesses such as his.

For their part, Ardicom’s managers are taking the position that the dispute isn’t really their concern.

“It’s not up to us to tell the GNWT what to do with its network,” says Ken Todd of Ardicom.

As for the plight of the NWT’s ISP’s, Todd said they might think about doing what many ISP’s in southern Canada have been forced to do – diversify.

But Jaque says his company, along with most other ISP’s already offers a wide range of services, which they’re afraid the territorial government won’t be buying anymore.

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