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Federal Minister makes connectivity announcement in Hay River

Honourable Gudie Hutchings, Minister of Rural Economic Development in Hay River
Photo credit: True North FM

The Honourable Gudie Hutchings, Minister of Rural Economic Development and the Minister responsible for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, was in Hay River Friday to announce over $2 billion in funding for broadband internet in the north. In her statement the Minister said she believes that “connectivity is a necessity” that “levels the playing field” by allowing rural Canadians to have “access to virtual healthcare” and a “lifeline for emergencies” such as those experienced by the NWT over the last several years.

The Minister was joined by NWT Member of Parliament, Michael McLeod, and they announced the MP’s home community of Fort Providence will receive $480,000 for a repositionable communications shelter located within hunting and fishing grounds adjacent the community. This project by SSi Micro Ltd. will provide cellular access to ensure those who are on the land remain connected and safe. The project was developed in response to the community’s own requests for suitable equipment that was mobile with the ability to be relocated as needed.

The bulk of the funding announced on Friday was over $1.9 million in federal funding that has already been spent on a project that was recently completed in the Tłįcho community of Whatì. This work, carried out by Northwestel, brought high speed fibre internet to the 152 Indigenous households in the community with funding provided under the Universal Broadband Fund, which has a goal of bringing reliable internet and mobile connectivity to rural, remote, and Indigenous communities. The fund is applications-based where project proponents can apply for funding if they can demonstrate suitability and guarantee a 50/10 mbps internet speed at all hours. Minister Hutchings indicated that there were several parties interested in the fund in the NWT and encouraged those with ideas to apply on the fund.

When asked about the longstanding issue of the lack of cellular service and the subsequent safety issue that presents along Highway 3 between Yellowknife and Behchokǫ̀, Hutchings stated she was unaware of the issue and looked to the the territory’s MP to respond. While McLeod acknowledged the safety issue the lack of coverage presents, he was non-committal on whether the territory’s residents could expect a similar funding announcement for this high traffic, highway corridor anytime soon. He indicated that the proponents, including the Tłįcho Government, are speaking about the matter and that several studies have been conducted but declined to provide any numbers as to the cost saying it wasn’t his place to speak on it.

In closing the Minister reiterated to the roomful of Northwest Territories Association of Communities’ AGM attendees that her government is committed to ensuring that 98% of Canadians are connected to high-speed internet by 2026 and 100% by 2030. For information on applying for the Universal Broadband Fund go to the Canadian Government’s website at

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