Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut January 14, 2013 - 6:34 am

Northwestel brings higher-speed internet to Cambridge Bay

For the first time, telecom firm offers 2.5 Mbps outside Iqaluit

BRIELLE MORGAN
Northwestel is now offering broadband DSL internet at 2.5 Mbps to Cambridge Bay, the first Nunavut community outside Iqaluit to be offered such a service. (FILE PHOTO)
Northwestel is now offering broadband DSL internet at 2.5 Mbps to Cambridge Bay, the first Nunavut community outside Iqaluit to be offered such a service. (FILE PHOTO)

Northwestel now offers faster internet service in Cambridge Bay, the first Nunavut community outside Iqaluit to be offered broadband DSL internet.

The company’s new DSL service will offer download speeds up to 2.5 Mbps (megabits per second,) with a download cap of 20 GB per month.

At that speed, it takes about three hours to download a two-hour movie, said Joel Witten, Northwestel’s associate marketing director.

Their new DSL modems also come with a built-in wireless router that customers can use to set up a wireless network at home.

At the old maximum speed of 1.5 Mbps offered by Qiniq and Northwestel (through its Netkaster satellite dish service) it takes maybe five hours to download the same amount of data, Witten said.

To access the new high speed service, Cambridge Bay residents will need two things: $129.95 per month and a phone line, since DSL Internet uses “the existing copper that runs into people’s homes.”

The higher speed is enabled by “a lot of Internet delivery equipment” installed in the “core switching hub” of the community, Witten said.

“It’s the first time outside of Iqaluit that we’ve implemented this kind of infrastructure in Nunavut.”

Northwestel agents were available at the Northern store in Cambridge Bay Jan. 11 and Jan. 12 to demonstrate the new service and field questions from the community.

Witten says Northwestel is looking to build similar upgrades into other northern communities, but he wouldn’t specify when and where.

This boost to Cambridge Bay’s internet is not part of Northwestel’s modernization plan — mandated by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunication Commission at the end of 2011.

Following a public review of the northern telecommunications industry, the CRTC called on Northwestel to improve and expand its service.

Since 2007, the 60-year-old company has received about $20 million a year to offset the cost of offering copper-wire landline telephone service in the many remote communities within its service area.

That subsidy, mandated by the CRTC about 12 years ago, flows from contributions made by all of Canada’s telephone companies.

That subsidy only compensates for the cost of local telephone service, not internet.

But last year, the CRTC found that Northwestel, which is owned 100 per cent by Bell Canada, was not reinvesting enough of its profit back into its network and gave Northwestel six months to form “a comprehensive plan to modernize its network infrastructure.”

“Despite Northwestel’s strong financial performance and overall capital spending which appears to have been in line with industry standards… the company has yet to modernize its aging network infrastructure,” the CRTC said.

This long-term plan has been under review by the CRTC for over a year. Witten says it’s due for approval this month – but it may not be made public at that point.

“[The CRTC] may request changes. So we won’t really publish it until it’s fully determined exactly what service set will be where,” Witten said.

The new plan will outline when and where service upgrades will take place.

For now, Iqaluit and Cambridge Bay remain the only communities in Nunavut where maximum broadband internet speeds are greater than 1.5 Mbps.

That said, the CRTC has set a goal of at least 5 Mbps for all Canadians by 2015.

“The CRTC anticipates that this target will be reached through a combination of private investments, targeted government funding and public-private partnerships,” the CRTC said when it announced the goal in May 2011.

However, the federal government is keeping its plans under wraps.

The current system of Industry Canada subsidies, which are vital to the operations of the Qiniq network and other internet providers across northern Canada, is due to expire in 2016.

Federal Industry Minister Christian Paradis promised a new digital strategy by the end of 2012. He has yet to make an announcement.

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