Wireless telecommunications: how the KRG did it
First, the Kativik Regional Government received $1.8 million each from Canada and Quebec, and $1 million from the $1 billion Sanarrutik agreement on social and economic development in Nunavik.
This was enough money to get the system going inside KRG offices throughout Nunavik in 2003, using commercially purchased bandwidth.
Then, the KRG became one of four organizations across Canada selected to receive free broadband access, or high-capacity Internet, through the federal government’s National Satellite Initiative.
The NSI is intended to lower the cost of broadband for communities in remote areas of Canada, such as Nunavik or Nunavut, where satellite is the only means of offering such access.
But Nunavik beat out Nunavut by more than a year in its application to the NSI program and, as a result, was accepted during the first round of applications. The next group of applications approved by the NSI didn’t offer free broadband access, but rather a 75 per cent subsidy equal to the cost of buying the commercial bandwidth needed to operate the system.
The program gave the KRG satellite capacity worth $7.86 million.
But the KRG had other obstacles to overcome: no business or group wanted to become the region’s commercial internet service provider. Two years of negotiations with the Fédération des coopératives du Nouveau-Québec, which had already launched its own cable-based Ilagi Internet service in Inukjuak, Puvirnituq and Salluit in 2002, failed to produce any agreement.
The KRG finally decided to assume the responsibility and the financial risk and then proceed. The KRG invested in modems capable of offering a wireless connection anywhere, even outside the line of sight.
The modems operate under a commercial licence held and operated by Inukshuk, a subsidiary of Microcell. Each subscriber to Tamaani receives a wireless modem, which works in any Nunavik community.
“Nunavik is one of the first regions in Canada to use this system,” said Joe Lance, the director of the KRG’s administration department. “This is the future of Internet communication, and we will enter with other operations allowing our customers to roam elsewhere in the country and in the world.”
Since Tamaani started operations in Dec. 2004, nearly 600 residents have signed on to the high-speed network. The KRG offices, daycares, Kativik Police Force, municipal offices, the Kativik Municipal Housing Bureau, Kativik School Board and all schools in the region are connected via Tamaani.
The KRG recently sent in a second application to the National Satellite Initative for more bandwidth, along with northern Ontario and Manitoba. The application is aimed at providing $45.1 million for the next 10 years to cover satellite costs and capital expenditures.