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Faster, more accessible Internet coming to the NWT – eventually

Anyone will tell you that up here in the North, our internet isn’t the fastest; but the CRTC’s ruling on Wednesday that made broadband internet an essential service in Canada is now going to change that.

Related: Northwestel says internet issues in Yellowknife resolved

The CRTC has mandated that internet providers now provide a minimum of 50 megabytes per second (Mbps) download speeds and 10 Mbps upload speeds, and the option of unlimited data for customers.

For many communities across the NWT, those sound like a dream come true.

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But actually achieving those speeds will take time says SSi Micro’s Chief Development Officer Dean Proctor.

“That involves a lot of investing,” Proctor told Moose FM. “If you look at our current plans they’re going to have to be changed.

“(But) this week’s decision from the CRTC is a profound change, something that we’ve actually been pushing for for years in how basic service is looked at.”

Currently 82 per cent of Canadians have the mandated internet speeds. The CRTC aims to make it 90 per cent in the next five years.

But Proctor says that for many more remote communities in the North, it could take up to 15 years for them to catch up.

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“Much of the North (with fiber-optic lines) will meet those targets in advance,” Proctor said. “But for much of the rest of the North and other underserved communities, the commission talked about a 10 to 15 year time frame.”

Despite taking time, Proctor says the North will see improved internet and a drop in rates from providers – eventually.

$750 M for infrastructure

The lack of satellites and fiber-optic lines connecting to more remote Northern communities is a big contributor to slow internet speeds and connectivity.

Now, a fund has been set up by the CRTC to the tune of $750 million that will help pay for the infrastructure needed to be built to make that happen.

Proctor says that the mechanics of everything still need to be worked out, but that SSI Micro expects that they’ll be eligible for some of that funding.

“It’s a significant amount of money,” he said. “It could actually make a very big difference in under connected areas, a very big difference.”

Building new infrastructure, from more satellites to fiber-optic lines, will open the territory to more competition between internet providers instead of the ‘monopoly’ on fiber-optic lines Proctor says Northwestel currently has.

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Related: Could the provision of internet become competitive in the NWT?

“There has not been competition in the North,” he says, and that by building more infrastructures Northwestel can’t control pricing, meaning savings get passed on to customers.

“In fiber-controlled communities, we are fully expecting to see massive drops in the rates that will allow us to be providing better connectivity into those communities,” Proctor said, but added that it’s too early to say by how much rates will go down.

Moose FM reached out to Northwestel for comment. They declined an interview, saying they are still “studying the ruling”.

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