Toyota Leaderboard July 18/13 Oct 04/13 Feb 11/14

News archive for January 30, 2014

Report finds North in need of technology upgrades

Without improvements to communications technologies, northern communities will be “left behind,” a new report by the Northern Communications Information Systems-Working Group finds.

By Ainslie Cruickshank on January 30, 2014 at 3:58 pm

Without improvements to communications technologies, northern communities will be “left behind,” a new report by the Northern Communications Information Systems-Working Group finds.

The working group was formed in 2010, after a military operation in the northern Arctic caused significant communications problems for the operation and the community, to improve communications infrastructure in the North.

The 2014 report aims to provide feasible technical and financial solutions to improving communication services. But those improvements won’t come cheap.

A key challenge is improving the North’s communications “backbone” the report notes.

Before recommending options for addressing the infrastructure deficit, the working group set a minimum target broadband speed of nine Mbps upload and 1.5 Mbps download per household.

But Steve Sorochan, the director of the Technology and Telecommunications Directorate within Yukon’s Department of Economic Development, said that’s not much a stretch for the Yukon given the territory’s infrastructure. He noted Northwestel is aiming to provide speeds of 15 Mbps through its modernization plan.

Currently the Yukon and the Northwest Territories have an average speed of 2.6 Mbps per household in communities served by microwave and satellite technologies, the report says.

Sorochan said the more pressing concerns for Yukon are reliability and affordability.

The report provides four options for upgrading and creating redundancy in the three northern territories.

Option one would include upgrades to the existing backbone to meet the target broadband speed, but no new redundancy. The report estimates the upgrade costs alone for the Yukon would be about $21.8 million

Option two would ensure every community has a backup system and calls for the upgrades to the main system included in option one. For the Yukon the upgrade costs for option two are likely to be in the range of $61.6 million.

Option three would require the creation of a backup system that could handle the full traffic level of the main system in the event of a primary-network failure as well as the upgrades in option one. The upgrades in option three would cost the Yukon about $390.1 million.

The final option would include upgrades to the primary system outlined in option one, the upgrades to the backup system outlined in option two, and in the Yukon, Dawson City would be added to the fibre system.

Option four would cost the territory about $104.4 million in upgrades.

Given the high costs associated with network improvements the report concludes that funding sources from outside the territories will be necessary. It notes that in Australia, the U.S. and the United Kingdom investment from federal governments is often the principle source of funding.

The report outlines a series of positive economic impacts that would result from improvements to communications technologies in the North. In the Yukon the working group estimates a total GDP impact of $174.9 million between 2016 and 2023. Over the same time period the group also estimates an increase in 68 to 220 jobs and an increase in tax revenue of about $9.86 million.

The upgrades would also lessen logistical challenges faced by developers, lower the cost of doing business in the North, accelerate job growth, increase procurement opportunities for northern companies, improve educational opportunities and improve and lower costs of health care services.

But the report offers a sombre warning as well.

“Without significant improvements to the broadband connectivity levels in the North, the three territories would likely see reduced economic growth, lower territorial tax base and correspondingly, stagnant or lower household income and fewer jobs,” the report says.

“The overall quality of life would be affected,” it continues, noting that as technologies continue to improve in the South, the North will have trouble attracting and retaining talented workers and the delivery of health, education and other government services would be negatively impacted.

A Northwestel spokesperson was not available for an interview but, Eric Clement, the company’s communications manager, offered a statement in response to questions from the Star.

The statement notes that the Northern Connectivity report highlights several valid concerns, some of which Northwestel has sought to address in its $233-million modernization plan.

“We believe our investments address many concerns around speed, transport and access to programs such as tele-health and e-learning. Last year, Northwestel began implementing that plan and we have proven our commitment to providing broadband speed that is faster than the minimum target set by the CRTC and NCIS report. Locally, Northwestel has upgraded speeds in Whitehorse and Carcross far above what is suggested in the report. This year, Northwestel will invest in numerous other Yukon communities to increase Internet speeds as well,” it said.

The Northern Communications working group will meet in Whitehorse in mid-February and bring together interested parties from the private sector and governments to discuss the findings of the report and options for moving forward.

CommentsAdd a comment

No comments yet. Why not be the first?

Add a comment

In order to encourage thoughtful and responsible discussion, comments will not be visible until a moderator approves them. Please add comments judiciously and refrain from maligning any individual or institution. Read about our user comment and privacy policies.

Your full name and email address are required before your comment will be posted.

Commenting is not available in this section entry.

Comment preview