Northwestel president describes telecom provider’s Nunavut accomplishments
“Our focus will remain on serving Nunavummiut, with leading technologies and strong partnerships so that everyone can benefit”
Strong partnerships and the very best technology are the key to improving broadband in Nunavut.
This unprecedented COVID-19 situation has driven home how the internet has the power to keep us close, even when we have to keep our distance. Improved broadband access is a cornerstone of unlocking the tremendous potential of Nunavut’s communities. While we have seen major improvements in Nunavut’s broadband landscape in the past few years, we know the biggest hurdles are ahead of us to close the digital divide. I believe that by harnessing world-leading technologies and strong northern partnerships we can tackle that challenge together.
It was only two years ago that Nunavut’s new open-access Tamarmik Nunaliit network, funded by Northwestel and the Government of Canada, increased Northwestel’s Internet connectivity more than twenty times in all 25 Nunavut communities.
The high-capacity satellite network is now being used by schools, health care centres, local businesses and by several Internet providers—not just Bell and Northwestel. This shared backbone for all Nunavut is entirely open-access, with strict legally binding access standards laid out in Northwestel’s contract with the Federal Government.
For Northwestel, it is important that every Nunavummiut be able to benefit from their network. That is why Northwestel and our parent company Bell invested in modern LTE wireless service in all 25 communities, without any federal funding. Today, Nunavummiut, no matter where they live have world class LTE service with national pricing plans, on Canada’s best wireless network. To say there has been no innovation in Northern telecommunications is far from true.
Northwestel and Bell also partnered to introduce significantly higher home Internet speeds in every single community. Up to 6 times the Internet speeds at a lower price point than previously available. And we made sure that on our website or through our call centre you can always choose to be served in Inuktitut.
We continue to invest to make improvements to home Internet services. When the COVID-19 situation hit, another Internet provider pleaded with their customers to use their Internet service less. Northwestel immediately provided our users with additional usage at no extra cost so you could work or study from home.
We are continuing to make direct capital investments to reduce the impact of rain interfering with the satellite signal from space. While we will never completely eliminate weather-related events, I am confident these ongoing investments can noticeably improve the customer experience.
Our employees are proud of the work we have accomplished. We have 500 employees living and working across northern Canada, including growing numbers of community-based technicians across Nunavut. We know continued investment and innovation in the territory will open up even more opportunities for young people.
Now we have an opportunity to bring the next generation of service to Nunavut. Our partner Telesat Canada will be launching a low-earth-orbit (LEO) satellite constellation in the coming years, offering fibre-like capacity into even the most remote communities. Our national partner already has expanded wireless to the home technology that Northwestel can harness to boost Internet speeds to 50 Mbps—tripling what’s available now. In our recent CRTC application, we proposed bringing these technologies to Nunavut all while reducing consumer costs once again.
It’s this level of innovation Northwestel wants to bring to the North. Across the three territories, we have always partnered with governments, Indigenous groups and development corporations to improve the services people rely on. There are so many opportunities here to do the same and Inuit and Nunavummiut will always have a partner in Northwestel.
It’s perhaps expected that discussions on the best path forward for Nunavut telecommunications have gotten quite competitive. After all, competition in Nunavut has actually increased, not declined, in the last few years. Our focus will remain on serving Nunavummiut, with leading technologies and strong partnerships so that everyone can benefit.
Curtis Shaw is the President of Northwestel. He has lived and worked in the North for over 20 years.