The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission announced in a statement on Aug. 12 that it will fund two Yukon-based Northwestel projects with $41.4-million. (Ian Stewart/Yukon News file)

Northwestel granted $41.4-million in new funding to improve Yukon internet access

The projects are expected to bring higher speeds and unlimited data to remote communities

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission will fund two Yukon-based Northwestel projects with $41.4-million, part of a larger package that is meant to upgrade broadband internet with higher speeds and unlimited data across the North.

“The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the critical need for reliable communications networks to navigate everyday life, as many Canadians were challenged by poor Internet connections. Today’s announcement marks a key milestone toward closing the digital divide,” said Ian Scott, Chairperson and CEO of the CRTC, in a statement.

“This initial funding from the CRTC Broadband Fund will improve access in the North and have a positive impact on many communities. We recognize, however, that too many regions across the country are still underserved. The assessment of the applications we received following our second call for applications is a high priority,” said Scott.

The CRTC announced the $72-million funding package on Aug. 12.

Over the next five years the Broadband Fund, made up of regulatory fees from the industry collected by the CRTC, will provide a total of $750-million to improve access in regions below the standard.

“The Government of Yukon was enthusiastic to support Northwestel’s application as it complements our innovation plan for the territory,” Yukon Economic Development Minister Ranj Pillai said.

In addition to the two Yukon projects, funds from the recent announcement will also go towards three other projects in Manitoba and Northwest Territories.

Approximately $41.4 million from this announcement will go towards projects in the Yukon.

Northwestel’s Yukon fibre project will get $38.6-million and is expected to bring 50 megabits per second downloads and 10 Mbps upload speeds with access to unlimited data to 4,680 households in Yukon. CRTC funding represents 62 per cent of the project cost.

The project area includes 19 communities: Beaver Creek, Burwash Landing, Carcross, Carmacks, Champagne, Dawson City, Destruction Bay, Faro, Haines Junction, Judas Creek/Marsh Lake, Mayo, Pelly Crossing, Ross River, Stewart Crossing, Tagish, Teslin, Upper Liard, Watson Lake and Whitehorse.

As part of the agreement tied to the funding, Northwestel internet packages related to the project will need to be consistent with current pricing in Whitehorse.

Another $2.8-million will go towards Northwestel’s Old Crow satellite project, which will bring 50 Mbps downloads and 10 Mbps upload speeds with access to unlimited data to 189 households. CRTC funding represents 80 per cent of the project cost.

Northwestel internet packages in Old Crow will need to be consistent with current pricing in Iqaluit.

The projects are set to begin construction in spring 2021.

Contact Haley Ritchie at haley.ritchie@yukon-news.com

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