Whitehorse Daily Star

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Paul Flaherty

CRTC decision puts crimp on NWTel's plans

Northwestel Inc. president Paul Flaherty says the company is having to make a serious shift in future upgrades because of a recent CRTC order.

By Chuck Tobin on April 17, 2013

Northwestel Inc. president Paul Flaherty says the company is having to make a serious shift in future upgrades because of a recent CRTC order.

Northwestel has asked the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission to reconsider its Feb. 25 order regarding how much the company can charge competitors to buy room on its network, Flaherty explained in an interview last Friday afternoon.

He said the company is cancelling the $3.6-million extension of its fibre optics cable between Stewart Crossing and Dawson City which had been scheduled for this summer.

The company also plans to cancel up to $35 million in fibre upgrades across the North.

"With this decision, there is no economic benefit for us to go forward with fibre,” Flaherty said.

The CRTC, he said, has to ensure the rates are low enough to encourage competition, but not so low they discourage investment.

If Northwestel went ahead with the Stewart Crossing-Dawson extension, Flaherty said, it could only recover 10 per cent of its cost with the rate the CRTC has imposed for its wholesale connect service.

Without a change in the rate, Northwestel will drop about $40 million in the expansion of fibre cable that was part of the overall $233-million, five-year modernization plan for the entire service area, he said.

In its April 11 application to have the CRTC review the order, Northwestel wrote:

"Simply put, these rates are too low, and have already caused Northwestel to cancel all of its planned fibre builds in 2013 and suspend any plans for future fibre builds contained in the Modernization Plan.

"As a result, Northwestel will invest in other types of technologies instead of fibre, because the company faces less risk in recovering its investment.

"The company submits that the Wholesale Connect Service rates established in Order 2013-93 cannot stand,” the submission goes on to say.

"These unreasonably low rates threaten the business case for any future investment by Northwestel in fibre-based transport facilities.

"These rates also undermine the company's ability to make the planned capital investments in its transport network as contained in the Modernization Plan.”

Flaherty said in the case of Dawson City, the company will go ahead with the necessary upgrade to its microwave service to stay current with the needs of its customers, though it simply won't have the same capacity as fibre optics.

The CRTC has failed to recognize the cost of the fibre installation, and how it reflects Northwestel's need for a higher rate of revenue than down south, where the fibre optic infrastructure has been in place for much longer, he said.

Flaherty said improving fibre optic service in the south means upgrading the hardware at each end of the cable.

In the North, it still means digging trenches and connecting communities, but the commission hasn't recognized that cost, he said.

Years down the road, once the fibre optic infrastructure has been completed, Flaherty said, the company will be in a similar rate structure as companies in the south, but not now.

Northwestel's fibre optic cable runs up from down south along the Alaska Highway, through Whitehorse and west to Haines Junction and north to Stewart Crossing.

In addition to Dawson City, Mayo is not yet serviced by fibre optics, nor are Faro, Old Crow, Destruction Bay and other communities up the North Alaska Highway.

Comments (9)

Up 0 Down 1

Jackie Ward on Apr 23, 2013 at 4:50 am

Northwestel just dropped their extreme Internet package to $110 from $120. And increases the bandwidth from 110GB TO 150GB. I for one welcome this change. The more warez the better. BTW: NetFlix is for suckerz who don't know what warez is, lol.

Up 0 Down 0

John on Apr 22, 2013 at 6:57 am

Maybe the CRTC should look at the price structure of NWtel and how they use their monopoly. NWtel has ignored the regulator and done its own thing with this as a result.

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Duthil on Apr 18, 2013 at 11:32 am

How about the competitors put in there own lines and see what they are willing to charge.

Since NWTel bought WHTV Cable several years ago our services have gotten better. It's not just NWtels infrasture that was neglected it was WHTV Cables as well.

When you get right down to it NWTel is the one that has the line. Why should they not charge competitors a fair rate that will help them pay for upgrades to the infrastructure.

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Joel on Apr 18, 2013 at 6:44 am

This has nothing to do with residential/business rates. This has to do with what NWTel can charge competitors to use the trunk lines.

There are fewer people to support the fiber trunk installation which is why NWTel receives extra money from other telcos and government to support it.

Cancelling needed upgrades is just their way of trying to get support from the public to stifle competition.

I wonder how many people will buy into this....

Up 0 Down 0

Atom on Apr 18, 2013 at 5:16 am

jim....didn't you know there has been a pop'n explosion in Whitehorse over the past 5 years? Your numbers are 'like so yesterday'. Must be at least 27,000 in summer.

When you consider the past practice of the YG giving land away and then the rates for services, it makes sense land is now unattainably expensive. It just took a while for folks to catch on to the likes of NW Tels marketing scheme.

.....Just charge a lot, they'll have to pay.

Up 1 Down 0

capt obvious on Apr 18, 2013 at 1:02 am

NWTel has done EVERYTHING possible to stamp out competition, while collecting public funds to improve and maintain infrastructure.

I invite Shaw to come up and run those lines on our dollar. We're paying for it anyway. This is the most gravy market in North America... about time someone else got a taste.

Up 1 Down 1

jim on Apr 17, 2013 at 2:02 pm

Whitehorse has only 25,000 people to support that fibre optic investment, while Vancouver has 2 million people.

That's why the rates are higher in Whitehorse than Vancouver, less people.

Up 2 Down 1

mark on Apr 17, 2013 at 11:14 am

Compare rates between places like Telus to northwestel. Yukoners are getting GOUGED.

Up 2 Down 1

Joe Whitehorse on Apr 17, 2013 at 8:08 am

Similar rate structure as down south? Whitehorse has had this fibre optic for years and the rate structure never become comparible to the south where they pay 5 times less for overage charges. Which is a double kick in the teeth because NWTEL got corporate welfare in the tune of 40 million from the government to build this line. When asked to show their books and profit margin they whine that they are a private company and shouldn't have too. If you take federal money and inherited most of your infrastructure from tax paying plans ... Show your books. Be aware everyone in the north. The people who run this company are the same educated people that took the world economy into the toilet for the last 5 years. They will take everything and leave nothing .

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