The Conservatives are putting pressure on the federal government to help hundreds of rural Yukoners at risk of losing their internet services.
A July 18 letter addressed to François-Philippe Champagne, minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, and Gudie Hutchings, minister of Rural Economic Development, discusses a notice to some customers that Xplornet will be ending its service as of Dec. 31.
The letter gets into the lack of options and the need for a solution. It is signed by three opposition MPs: Shannon Stubbs, the shadow minister for rural economic development and rural broadband; Bob Zimmer, the shadow minister for northern affairs; and Gérard Deltell, the shadow minister for innovation, science and industry.
“There are very few alternatives, and these alternatives are outrageously expensive,” reads the letter.
The letter cites a Yukoner who wrote to the Conservatives complaining about “very expensive installation fees” of upwards of $20,000 and ongoing fees of $1,500 per month.
“Worse, some emerging technologies — such as Starlink — are not yet an option, and there is no firm timeline for Yukoners on when it can become available.”
The letter urges that access to the internet “must be a top priority” so affected Yukoners can continue to access emergency and medical services, work, education and more.
The letter sets an October deadline for a solution, based on information obtained from Yukoners.
“We urge you both to engage with your territorial counterparts and your contacts with Xplornet to find a solution for these Canadians before they lose their internet access,” the letter concludes.
The letter estimates Xplornet currently serves approximately 500 households.
The Yukon’s department of Highways and Public Works previously told the News an estimated 290 Yukon customers will be affected, although that doesn’t capture the actual number of people who rely on it.
Norm Carlson is one of those affected people. He contacted Stubbs and the News about what he calls the “very important issue.” (See letter, Page 9.)
Adam Sills is a strategic account manager for Total North, which is an Xplornet dealer that resells Xplornet services.
Sills agreed that there is a lack of affordable options for individuals and families living in the rural Dawson, Mayo and Keno areas north of Takhini Hot Springs Road. He said there are options, but the alternatives are primarily commercially based, so the price point is significantly higher than the current rates.
Sills said installation costs are typically under $10,000 and can vary depending on where the customer is and what they need. He confirmed the monthly rental price for a satellite package with a dish rented by the client starts at $1,540 for 50 GB.
Sills said Xplornet has a new service, but its coverage does not go far enough.
“Everyone is kind of waiting” for Starlink, he said.
The Yukon’s department of Highways and Public Works previously told the News that the availability of Starlink in the far North has been delayed until sometime in 2023.
Luka Vujic, press secretary for the rural development minister’s office, confirmed by email the federal ministers had received the letter from Conservatives on July 19.
“Our government understands that access to high-speed internet is a necessity,” Vujic said.
“We are aware that Xplornet is planning to end its internet services by the end of the year in the Yukon and we are working closely with our partners, including the government of Yukon, to resolve this issue.”
Vujic did not give a timeline for a solution.
“I want to reiterate that all options are on the table to find a quick resolution and ensure Yukoners don’t get left behind.”
Contact Dana Hatherly at email@example.com