The federal government has promised to invest nearly $50 million in Nunavut to speed up the territory’s notoriously slow and expensive internet.
Navdeep Bains, the minister for innovation, science and economic development, made the announcement in Iqaluit on Thursday. The new funding is part of an initiative headed by Northwestel, a regional service provider, who is spending $73 million to improve internet access with new satellite dishes and ground stations in all 25 of Nunavut’s underserved communities.
From Kugluktuk to Pangnirtung, the internet upgrades are expected to boost the speed of internet from a maximum of three megabytes per second to between five and 15 megabytes per second for residents.
The five megabyte minimum is still relatively slow compared to the rest of Canada who may take access to high speed internet for granted. Nunavut’s broadband capacity for schools, governments and health care providers is expected to increase by 20 times.
Last year, the CRTC declared broadband internet access a basic service, setting a new target for internet service providers to provide all Canadian customers with a minimum upload speed of 10 megabytes.
“We can no longer consider high-speed Internet a luxury,” said Bains in a statement.
Sluggish internet has long been an issue in Canada’s North and noted by politicians and locals alike as a significant barrier for northern innovation and development. In fact, those living in Canada’s territories often cite internet access as one of their greatest concerns.
“Internet access is now an essential part of everyday life. Canadians go online for education, health services, entertainment and shopping. Faster Internet connections allow Canadians to innovate,” said Bains.
“It allows them to get the skills and training they need to qualify for well-paying jobs,The smallest businesses, no matter where they are located, can participate fully in the global marketplace and achieve global scale in a flash with faster Internet service.”
Northwestel is starting to sealift construction supplies to the territory this year, with the goal of delivering faster internet to all of Nunavut by 2019. The funding is part of a $500 million federal Connect to Innovate program announced in the 2016 budget to improve high speed internet in rural and remote Canadian communities.
This isn’t the first initiative or program trying to improve wireless connectivity in Canada’s north. In August, telecommunications company Ice Wireless partnered with Parallel Wireless to hasten the deployment of an improved LTE network in Nunavut.