Broadband network would increase Nunavik’s GDP: study
“And if we don’t do it, we lose that opportunity"
KUUJJUAQ — Building a high-speed broadband network in Nunavik would be worth the investment, says a new study prepared by the Kativik Regional Government.
The KRG has already done a pre-feasibility study to determine that building a high-capacity network to meet the long terms needs of Nunavik is expensive – between $100 million and $150 million — but feasible.
This more recent study looked at the socio-economic impacts of building a network to bring Nunavik up to the same data speeds as much of southern Canada.
Over an eight-year period, the study found a network would represent growth of $55 million for Nunavik with the creation of 37 new jobs.
When that data is extrapolated over a 15-year period, the economic potential of increasing broadband could be closer to $225 million.
“What we’re saying is that if we do spend that money, then it’s justified,” said Jean-François Dumoulin, senior coordinator of programs with Nunavik’s Tamaani wireless internet, the KRG-operated internet service provider. “It effectively becomes an economic opportunity.”
“And if we don’t do it, we lose that opportunity.”
The social benefits are harder to quantify, Dumoulin said, but different organizations surveyed for the study confirmed that catching up to southern levels would greatly improve Nunavik’s access to education and training, as well as increased security in the region.
Sectors like health and justice showed the highest potential for cost savings by using tele-transportation.
Over the last 10 years, Nunavik has invested about $50 million in its internet services — $20 million of its own money.
So in the future, Dumoulin said, the region has to justify the cost of upgrading its network.
And because there is not yet a business case for broadband in the north, Nunavik will in large part rely on government subsidies.
Although the last federal budget promised $305 million over five years for northern broadband, it’s not clear where that money will go and if any of it will reach Nunavik before the region’s current funding agreement expires in 2016.
“Given that uncertainty, the KRG may be faced with potentially having to reduce its internet speeds in 2016,” Dumoulin said.
The study tried to explore that scenario, but its model fell short.
“We wanted to look at the impacts of what happens when internet speed goes down, but couldn’t — because no one in the world is reducing their speeds,” he said.
KRG’s 2013 pre-feasibility study pegged Nunavik’s medium and long-term needs at 2,500 megabytes and 7,400 Mbs.
The region’s objective — to increase its internet speed 30-fold by 2021 — would still only deliver the same speed that providers like Videotron and Bell were delivering in Montreal in 2011, Dumoulin said.
Nunavik’s internet is currently fed through Telesat’s Anik F3 C-band satellite, infrastructure that cannot meet the region’s needs, which is why Nunavik is exploring different options like fibre-optic, microwave towers and high-speed (Ka-band) satellite.
A Nunavik-only fibre optic project is estimated at somewhere around $155 million.