which party supports the internet

A recent federal government report concluded the telecommunications infrastructure in the North is in a bad, bad way.

A recent federal government report concluded the telecommunications infrastructure in the North is in a bad, bad way.

That system that supports our internet and mobile and landline phones is poorly designed and implemented, undependable, expensive and slow.

As a result, not only is our access to Netflix threatened, but government services are negatively impacted, and emergency situations – such as plane crashes – are more dangerous than they need be.

Not surprisingly, the report recommends since private companies, like Northwestel, have proven themselves incapable of effectively and affordably accommodating the growing communications needs of northerners, it’s time for government to get involved.

What a perfect message for election time!

So, how are Yukon’s political parties proposing to resolve the North’s internet problem if we put them in office?

Based on the information they’ve released to date, they aren’t.

But let’s look at the state of affairs before we delve too deeply into the dearth of election promises.

The report I’m referring to was published earlier this year by the Northern Communications & Information Systems Working Group, an agency of the Canadian Forces’ Arctic Security Working Group.

The report is titled, A Matter of Survival: Arctic Communications Infrastructure in the 21st Century. It’s generally referred to as ACIA.

The report was heavily referenced in a recent Globe and Mail article that quoted a military representative describing the North’s infrastructure as “fragile.”

Maj. Tom Bachelder says, “Communications ties in to safety and security. It also ties in to sovereignty.”

The failures that regularly and repeatedly occur in the northern network represent not only inconveniences, but dangers.

Bachelder highlighted problems experienced during the recent plane crash in Resolute, when it was difficult to get necessary information in and out of the community.

The report cites a number of situations in which government services fail or are made more difficult because of the poor infrastructure.

As for the Yukon in general, the ACIA report describes our pain like so:

“In Whitehorse … repeated cuts to the only fibre connection connecting it to the internet ground the modern city to a halt, drastically affecting their local economy, and causing outages and slowdowns to all the communities feeding into Whitehorse.”

So what does the ACIA report recommend to bring our infrastructure up to snuff?

Only the same things that I and many of like mind have been talking about for years.

Like a strategy.

The North’s telecommunications infrastructure is the technical equivalent of a shack in a Jim Robb painting.

The Yukon government needs to collaborate with governments in NWT and Nunavut to plan and implement a comprehensive, long-term local and pan-northern telecommunications strategy.

And then there’s geographic redundancy.

The Yukon, for one, desperately needs at least one more big pipe connecting us to the internet that doesn’t go down the Alaska Highway or pass through that backhoe-happy community called Fort Nelson. 

Yukon’s smaller communities also each need redundancy, so that if their connections to Whitehorse fail, they have a fallback.

And all connections need significantly improved data thresholds. This is, after all, the age of digital video.

Finally, pricing. It needs to go down. Way down.

The ACIA report highlights the lack of “parity” between the services that northerners receive and that which folks down south get. And a lot of that disparity revolves around price.

That applies not just to consumers, but businesses and governments too.

Finally, funding. Northwestel can’t do it alone. No private business could. The challenges in the North are insurmountable for any one company, especially when that company needs to send a profit home to its parent.

The government has to step up with money and other resources. And it’s got to be ready to lobby Ottawa for money and support, too.

As the Globe article says, and as I’ve written before, the governments of other major nations are investing in the telecommunications infrastructure in their remote regions. Australia is spending billions, the US and UK tens of millions.

So here we are in an election. What are the Yukon’s politicians promising to do about the well-recognized and documented communications problem?

I browsed the websites and Facebook pages of the three major political parties and only managed to find one sentence about this issue: “…internet and phone reliability are fundamentally important to our connection to the world and the global economy.”

That was from the Liberal Party’s Takhini-Kopper King Candidate, Cherish Clarke.

(Disclosure: the Liberal Party is one of my clients.)

It’s a great, if wanting start.

But it’s early in the campaign. I’m hopeful that she and other candidates will expand upon the issue with a cohesive, focused plan. After all, this is a core infrastructure concern that will either enable or make more difficult the delivery of other services that the parties promise to implement.

In the meantime, and in the event that the parties don’t pick up the matter of phone and internet service in the North, we’ve all got plenty of time to hassle them about it.

Ask your local candidate how he or she will work to make our telecommunications infrastructure, particularly the internet, more stable, reliable, faster, and cheaper. Make sure you vote for a candidate whose party presents a solid plan for implementing the promises.

Or just prepare for another four years of slow speeds, service disruptions, and big bills. Your choice.

Andrew Robulack is a Whitehorse-based freelance writer and communications technology consultant specializing in the internet and mobile devices.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Fines for contravening the fire ban start at $1,150 and could go as high as $100,000. File photo
Yukon campgrounds will open on May 1 this year. (Black Press file)
Yukon campgrounds to open early

Yukon campgrounds will open on May 1 this year. The early opening… Continue reading

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: The aesthetics and economics of highway strips

One of the many cultural experiences you enjoy while driving from Whitehorse… Continue reading

Submitted
Artwork by Grade 2 student Faith showing her thanks for everyone.
Artwork by Grade 2 student Faith showing her thanks for everyone. (Submitted)
Yukon kids express gratitude for nature, pets and friends in art campaign

More than 50 children submitted artwork featuring things they are grateful for

Team Yukon skip Laura Eby, left, directs her team as Team Northern Ontario skip Krysta Burns looks on at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Calgary on Feb. 22. (Jeff McIntosh/CP)
Team Yukon reports positive experience at Scotties

Team Yukon played their final game at the national championship in Calgary on Thursday afternoon

A sign indicating a drop-off area behind Selkirk Elementary school in Whitehorse on Feb. 25. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Parking lot proposal for Selkirk Elementary criticized

Parents and school council are raising concerns about green space and traffic woes

Tom Ullyett, pictured, is the first Yukoner to receive the Louis St-Laurent Award of Excellence from the Canadian Bar Association for his work as a community builder and mentor in the territory. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
Tom Ullyett wins lifetime achievement award from the Canadian Bar Association

Ullyett has worked in the Yukon’s justice ecosystem for 36 years as a public sector lawyer and mentor

The Blood Ties outreach van will now run seven nights a week, thanks to a boost in government funding. Logan Godin, coordinator, and Jesse Whelen, harm reduction counsellor, are seen here on May 12, 2020. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Blood Ties outreach van running seven nights a week with funding boost

The Yukon government is ramping up overdose response, considering safe supply plan

Ranj Pillai speaks to media about business relief programs in Whitehorse on April 1, 2020. The Yukon government announced Feb.25 that it will extend business support programs until September. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Government extends business relief programs to September, launches new loan

“It really gives folks some help with supporting their business with cash flow.”

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
A look at decisions made by Whitehorse City Council this week

Bylaw amendment Whitehorse city council is moving closer with changes to a… Continue reading

Susie Rogan is a veteran musher with 14 years of racing experience and Yukon Journey organizer. (Yukon Journey Facebook)
Yukon Journey mushers begin 255-mile race

Eleven mushers are participating in the race from Pelly Crossing to Whitehorse

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse on Nov. 22, 2018. As the legislature prepares to return on March 4, the three parties are continuing to finalize candidates in the territory’s 19 ridings. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Nine new candidates confirmed in Yukon ridings

It has been a busy two weeks as the parties try to firm up candidates

David Malcolm, 40, has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm a police officer after an incident in Whitehorse on Feb. 18. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
Man resists arrest, assaults officer

A Whitehorse man has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm… Continue reading

Yukon Energy in Whitehorse on Aug. 4, 2020. A site on Robert Service Way near the Alaska Highway has been selected as the future home of Yukon Energy’s energy storage project. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Site selected for Yukon Energy battery project

Planned to be in service by the end of 2022

Most Read