Whitehorse Daily Star

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Photo by Whitehorse Star

CABLE REPAIR RESTORES SERVICES – Northwestel Inc. apparatus is seen in Whitehorse. On Wednesday, technicians from the company travelled to the area north of Fort Nelson, B.C., where the crucial fibre optic cable was damaged, and finished repairs early Thursday morning.

Another damaged cable, another services outage

Thousands of people in the Yukon and northern B.C. lost communications and cable television services Wednesday after a crucial fibre optics cable was damaged during road construction north of Fort Nelson, B.C.

By Whitehorse Star on May 13, 2021

Thousands of people in the Yukon and northern B.C. lost communications and cable television services Wednesday after a crucial fibre optics cable was damaged during road construction north of Fort Nelson, B.C.

The damage occurred at approximately 2:30 p.m., and the disruptions to customers lasted for 11 hours in some areas.

Among the services disrupted were the Internet and long-distance phone and television services.

With the emergency 911 number out of service for much of Wednesday afternoon and evening, residents were advised to call the RCMP if an emergency developed.

Emergency Medical Services placed personnel at such locations as the Canada Games Centre and the Carcross Cutoff as a precautionary move.

Limited cellular service remained available during the service failures.

Long-distance phone services were also impacted in the N.W.T. and Nunavut, as was Internet service to Ulukhaktok, N.W.T.

On Wednesday afternoon, Northwestel Inc. technicians travelled by road from Whitehorse to the impacted area. They were able to conduct repairs and restore the connection early this morning.

“We continue to work to test our systems and ensure all services are restored,” Northwestel said.

“We thank our customers for their patience over the past hours.”

The Yukon government is pursuing a project involving fibre optic cable being installed along the Dempster Highway into the N.W.T. to act as an alternate source of services whenever construction activities – often in B.C. – damage the cable the Yukon currently relies on. It’s expected to be finished by 2023.

Damage to the Yukon’s vital cable during construction projects and consequent lengthy service failures have occurred several times in the last few years.

Comments (19)

Up 3 Down 0

Wha? on May 18, 2021 at 7:32 pm


The fibre going north east from here to Inuvik would connect with the fibre headed south east down the MacKenzie to Yellowknife and on to Alberta.

This route only makes sense in that it looks cool on a boardroom wall at NWTel. “Look how we tricked these rubes into building our network with their tax dollars AND we charge them to use it”

The better route would have been down the Whitepass rail bed (already a proven telecom route) into the Lynn Canal under sea cable. Partnering with FN groups along that route creating a forever revenue stream for them and smoking fast speeds to the lower 48.

Anywho, Starlink (satellite internet) is active in beta testing and may provide a decent alternative but the jury is still out on speed and reliability in the North.

Up 0 Down 2

Erik on May 18, 2021 at 1:00 pm

@Vern. The links to Inuvik are to hook into Arctic fibre-optic lines that are being planned to link Asia and Europe. Quintillion (formerly Arctic Fibre) has their first phase operating in Alaska. Nuvitik Fibre and CanArctic Inuit Networks are other players, but as far as I know, there isn't yet fibre installed offshore of Inuvik.

Up 1 Down 1

Vern Schlimbesser on May 17, 2021 at 10:01 pm

Every time a back-hoe in British Columbia cuts the cable the entire Yukon system goes down for long periods of time.

I would like someone to clear this up, in case I miss the facts here. I assume we are going down now for physical infrastructure failures, not for administrative failures, and will that be prevented YTG promise, by building onto that same line, from here North to Inuvik. SO that will provide redundancy here? That must mean Inuvik has the spare capacity to handle all the traffic in the Yukon through an independent link, and that would need to be via satellite then! I sure want to see that assumption confirmed.

I am cautious because the redundancy provided by the Alaska line (through Haines Junction) is not used...and that's because?
Maybe I am just confusing this with the LNG plant that was going to solve our power shortage problems, but then being told I misunderstood.

Up 7 Down 0

Wha? on May 17, 2021 at 11:41 am


Consider reading your own link. That fibre goes from North Pole, AK to Haines Junction, YT. Then all traffic goes down the same NWTel pipe that was cut in Fireside.

Up 14 Down 0

Groucho d'North on May 15, 2021 at 1:00 pm

The Alaska Highway was built in 10 months utilizing 1940's technology, and in these modern times the estimate for the completion of the Dempster fibre project aka "Bill's Folly" is well into 2023 or longer. This is not to build a road in the wilderness, but to run a small cable alongside an existing roadway.

Up 8 Down 2

bonanzajoe on May 14, 2021 at 5:32 pm

I do apologize for my ignorance and comment. Northwestel do have top of the line workers.

Up 50 Down 3

Awww hell naw! on May 14, 2021 at 1:37 pm

NWTel has no issues taking your money but will never return it when they can't deliver.
Yukoners have become complacent with this outfit. Sure there is an undercurrent of hate for them but imagine this scenario:

Every day you order groceries and you are auto billed. One day of each month the food doesn't show up, but you are still expected to pay, not paying or even complaining is not an option.

In what other business model does this exist? I'll answer: NONE

Up 39 Down 2

Yukoner1 on May 14, 2021 at 12:03 pm

Too bad the media won't ask Nwtel why they aren't using the Alaska redundant fiber that they already have turned on:

Redundancy already exists. They chose not to use it. Maybe because then we would ask questions as to why we still need the dempster line?

Up 40 Down 2

Groucho d'North on May 14, 2021 at 10:16 am

Does anybody tally up the direct impacts to business operators when the network fails? Many modern purchasing systems rely on the Internet to complete sales transactions. No web - no sales.
I just poured $80 of fuel into the pickup and then go in to pay and you see a sign that says CASH ONLY No Credit Card Payments At This Time.
How many shopping carts full of food get abandoned becasue payment is not possible?
Our near total reliance on the cyber infrastructure for security, commerce and information sharing demands a reliable and robust network. No wonder Elon Musk's Starlink has Bell concerned, fibre cables don't get cut in space.

Up 13 Down 4

Benefit of the Doubt on May 14, 2021 at 8:57 am

Well bonanzajoe, I hope they took at least a few coffee breaks, within reason. I hope you're not assuming they took more than they should have.

Up 13 Down 2

YukonMax on May 14, 2021 at 8:23 am

And then, yesterday, we've been over 2 hrs without power.

Up 19 Down 3

Doug Tutty on May 14, 2021 at 12:32 am

Nobody has explained how a cable disruption in northern BC interferes with long-distance from Faro to Whitehorse, or why NorthwesTel's toll-free number from the front of their paper directory had been "disconnected" when I tried to find out what was going on (using my Plain Old Telephone Service landline) (since I didn't have internet or VoIP phone availability.

Up 19 Down 0

Martin on May 13, 2021 at 8:20 pm

@groucho...... NWTel bought the infrastructure from the old CNPC for a dollar. Do you know who buys for a dollar with the blessings of the Feds? Don't expect to see BS anytime.... ever

Up 27 Down 2

Adam Thompson on May 13, 2021 at 7:01 pm

Helicoptering often winds up not being any faster, by the time you can find one available, get it fueled, etc... and then the kicker: unloading from the truck and into the helicopter the nearly one ton of tools & supplies those work trucks often carry. And suddenly you need a bigger, slower, harder-to-find helicopter that can handle the load.
Lastly, the fiber trucks are specially constructed with the repair bench & tools mounted to the truck so the technicians have somewhere to work quickly, accurately and safely even in the winter - some of that simply can't be removed and flown in .
Source: I investigated this exhaustively when I worked in Northwest Ontario, which has similar distance & terrain challenges.
It's too bad... Getting helicoptered in to fix something would've been pretty cool.

Up 24 Down 11

Beverly on May 13, 2021 at 6:50 pm

Thank you for getting onto this mishap so quickly and going all the way down the highway to insure we got our services back ASAP. Hats off to Northwestel AND all the provisions takes by Emergency Services to insure That us Yukoners would be safe while the 911 services were out. I’m always so proud of how things are handled in our Yukon. Thanks again.

Up 23 Down 5

Peter on May 13, 2021 at 5:11 pm

When dealing with a fibre cut and not knowing what caused it a helicopter is not a choice. The gear needed will not fit in it. The redundancy route is not completed as was stated in article.

Up 28 Down 51

bonanzajoe on May 13, 2021 at 5:02 pm

Could they not have helicoptered the repair personal rather than go by road. Driving takes several hours. Sending them by chopper would have had the damage repaired by early evening. And how many coffee breaks were taken during the trip?

Up 50 Down 16

JSM on May 13, 2021 at 2:58 pm

Are we going to be getting a price break for a day without service? I doubt it of course.

Up 58 Down 11

Groucho d'North on May 13, 2021 at 2:46 pm

So much for all that expensive redundancy taxpayers invested in. Do you think NWTel will ever make public an annual report? I'd like to see their financial statement before anymore tax dollars are invested with them or Bell/BCE Inc.

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