Alaskan telco announces fibre optic line to Skagway

Yukon's quest to see a second telecommunications link to Outside has seen a boost this week thanks to news out of Alaska.

Yukon’s quest to see a second telecommunications link to Outside has seen a boost this week thanks to news out of Alaska.

This week Alaska Power & Telephone announced plans to run undersea fibre-optic cable from Juneau to Skagway.

The Yukon has been studying the possibility of a power and telecommunications link to Skagway for a few years now. With this announcement, that dream could be a little closer to reality.

“It really reduces a big risk,” said Steve Sorochan, the Yukon government’s director of technology and telecommunications development.

“It removes a big chunk of infrastructure that needs to be built for us to proceed with that project. It certainly improves the attractiveness of the project.”

A second Internet connection to Outside would dramatically increase the reliability of Yukon’s telecommunications.

Currently the territory remains vulnerable to outages when backhoe operators in northern B.C. occasionally sever the sole existing line.

That’s a big impediment to the Yukon government’s goal of growing the territory’s technology and communications industry.

The Yukon government is in the middle of a few studies to look at options for the diverse fibre project, said Sorochan.

Stantec recently presented a report to the government recommending that it investigate the feasibility of a private-public partnership, or P3, model to build the link, he said.

A summary of that report should be released to the public in the coming weeks, said Sorochan.

The contractor recommended further investigating the P3 model, to determine if the benefits outweigh the costs. That work is being done right now.

If partnering with the private sector won’t result in savings to the public, the government could choose instead to proceed with a more traditional design-build contract, said Sorochan.

A further study is being done to compare the total cost of service for the Alaska link compared with extending fibre-optic cable up to Inuvik, to connect with fibre that the Northwest Territories government has committed to build on its side.

That all-Canadian route has been championed by NorthwesTel.

“The Dempster is still one of the things that we’re considering,” said Sorochan.

Information from all of those studies will be received and compiled some time this spring, and at that point the government will have some options to consider as it makes a decision on how to proceed, he said.

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at

jronson@yukon-news.com

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