Whitehorse Daily Star

‘Significant land erosion’ triggered latest Internet outage

Northwestel Inc. officials are remaining very tight-lipped over Wednesday’s massive Internet failure that left customers all over the Yukon without service for most of the day and evening.

By Tim Giilck on July 7, 2022

Northwestel Inc. officials are remaining very tight-lipped over Wednesday’s massive Internet failure that left customers all over the Yukon without service for most of the day and evening.

Parts of northern B.C. and the N.W.T. were also affected.

Andrew Anderson, a spokesperson for the company, told the Star this morning, “Yesterday at approximately 8:30 a.m. YT, a fibre optic cable along the Alaska Highway in northern B.C. was damaged by significant land erosion, causing a disruption to Internet services to Yukon and northern B.C.  Some individual customers in the N.W.T. were also impacted.

“Phone and cellular service remained operational throughout the day. Northwestel technicians travelled to the site and were able to repair the fibre cable and restore Internet service at approximately 8:30 pm YT.”

On Twitter Wednesday evening, a similar statement was posted.

“Northwestel technicians have identified damage to a fibre line in northern B.C. caused by significant land erosion.

“We expect service to be impacted for several more hours as we repair the line. Thank you for your patience.”

The cables were broken at kilometre 780 of the highway, just north of the Liard Hot Springs and well south of Watson Lake.

The reactions to the failure on social media were a mixture of positive and negative.

One Twitter user wrote, “We need something better than cables that are susceptible to construction and ‘erosion.’

“We are held hostage by this single set of (three) cables that are invariably damaged every single year.”

Another user tweeted, “When are you running a second fibre optic cable to Skagway and be done with this mess?”

Conversely, the Yukon government is spearheading a $70-million project to run an underground fibre optic cable along the Dempster Highway corridor from the Dawson City area to Inuvik, N.W.T.

Barring any unforseen labour and/or supply shortages, the project is expected to be completed in 2024.

Wednesday’s outage caused numerous problems for customers and businesses all over the Yukon.

Banking services were down for the most part in Whitehorse and elsewhere.

Many businesses were reduced to accepting cash only from customers – something most don’t have on hand these days.

Yukoners have suffered a series of lengthy Internet failures in recent years, frequently caused by contractors in B.C. who inadvertently slice through the crucial link with their heavy equipment.

Comments (14)

Up 11 Down 1

starlink on Jul 10, 2022 at 7:43 am

Anyone can sign up, if you enter in an address that's in their database, come up with $129 deposit, and if you're ok with a blurb that says 'Q1 2023'. $759 + $65 shipping and handling, you install it yourself and pay $140/month. As with any low-earth-orbit satellites, there has to be a line of sight, and at northern latitudes, that means in winter there can be problems (as well as with snow build-up, trees, or anything that might block that line of sight). I hope it works! It could be a great solution for mining camps, lodges and those that will lose Xplornet at the end of the year. But I'm not all that optimistic.

Up 12 Down 0

Groucho d'North on Jul 9, 2022 at 10:44 am

Yesterday's network failure of the Rogers system has underlined the importance of our digital infrastructure and how much of our lives are dependent on it for a variety of reasons. With the pending merger of Rogers and Shaw, many are concerned about having all the eggs in one basket, so there are increasing calls for competition in the marketplace -something the north has long been denied.
We can expect the federal government to wade into this mess and try and apply solutions because the CRTC has been ineffectual in resolving these matters.
Encouraging competition in all Canadian telecom markets and provinding consumers a choice of providers would take care of most issues that are problematic, but the telcos write big cheques to the politcians to protect their domains so some difficult choices will need to be made. In all of this I hope there will be some demonstration of the truth in how much these telcos are making and how this compares to other national telecommunications services. These matters are studied and reports are produced, they just don't get talked about very much. https://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/693.nsf/eng/00169.html

Up 13 Down 9

Jackie on Jul 8, 2022 at 2:24 pm

My Opinion on Jul 7, 2022. We'll continue to take your money. Just keep complainin' and payin' us. Stay in our hotels, use our infrastructure, buy goods at our stores, etc. Thanks for stopping' by.

Up 30 Down 14

MITCH on Jul 8, 2022 at 8:07 am

Still interac problems Friday Morning. Northwestel should prorate the Yukon a week. You wanted a digital society, I want provider accountability.

Up 38 Down 14

My Opinion on Jul 7, 2022 at 11:40 pm

Actually NWT announced the fibre network has been gifted to the First Nations. Give them a call. They are partners in all the utility infrastructure these days. They should get on it and get this fixed. If you want to be an owner man up and take responsibility.

Up 5 Down 0

bonanzajoe on Jul 7, 2022 at 9:01 pm

@Sheepchaser on Jul 7. How did you do that? Let us know. I'm interested.

Up 28 Down 0

iBrian on Jul 7, 2022 at 7:36 pm

Always carry $100 cash. Well I guess $300 now if you drive a pick up.

Up 25 Down 5

Yukoner1 on Jul 7, 2022 at 7:12 pm

Why is no one pointing out that redundancy already exists? We have a second fiber optic line leaving the Yukon, through Beaver Creek. It is live and operational. Northwestel CHOOSES not to use it. Is anyone going to ask them why? Maybe it's because if they did use it, the Dempster route's necessity might be questioned? Here is the relevant article:


Up 20 Down 0

zelmo on Jul 7, 2022 at 7:07 pm

Ironically, Xplornet, slated to be discontinued in Dec. for many locations, was up and running.

Up 13 Down 12

Mitch on Jul 7, 2022 at 5:23 pm

Significant national erosion has triggered millions of voters. You might want to approach this like your careers depend on it, as we do, because our careers depend on it. So do our lives.

Up 69 Down 4

John on Jul 7, 2022 at 3:43 pm

Thank you to the crew for getting things back up and running.

Up 45 Down 11

Community Resident on Jul 7, 2022 at 2:33 pm

We wouldn't be in this situation had they gone with the Skagway Line years ago. Would have been completed (Shorter Distance etc) and we wouldn't have much down time if.... well how many times is it going to go out until 2024? come on....

Up 24 Down 10

Sheepchaser on Jul 7, 2022 at 2:25 pm

Just signed up for Starlink on their website.

Up 48 Down 15

Groucho d'North on Jul 7, 2022 at 2:03 pm

Again, the Yukon’s economy has suffered from the less-than-adequate fibre infrastructure owned and operated by Canada’s last surviving telecomm monopoly Northwestel.
This is not a new situation as the line has been cut previously when highway work is taking place. So why didn’t NWTel dispatch some advisors to the worksite so that the fibre cable could be identified, and plans could have been made to prevent damage to this critical part of our communications infrastructure?
As previously reported the fibre cable is not protected by a conduit of any kind, it is hanging from trees and laying on the ground. Not a good method of protecting something so critical to our economy and safety.
Also, I recall government ministers beating their chests and bragging about investing millions of our tax dollars into redundant network options to prevent the expensive and frustrating situations we experienced on July 6th 2022, when commerce was in essence shut off by this cable break.
We need some accountability from both the telco and the government for their failures to prevent these impacts from occurring. It is a weak link and everybody knows it; so put some extra diligence into ensuring this vital connection to the rest of the world remains intact and functioning, and government can lean on the telco a bit harder to get the redundant systems up and operating. It would be nice to see some value for the many millions of tax dollars invested into this monopoly service provider. Perhaps if our money is only provided to NWTel after the system improvements are functioning as they should, we could see some better performance and reliability.

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