NorthwesTel unveils $233M in planned upgrades

By 2018 almost every northerner will be able to use an iPhone in their community. That's just one of the promises NorthwesTel made when it submitted its $233-million modernization plan

By 2018 almost every northerner will be able to use an iPhone in their community.

That’s just one of the promises NorthwesTel made when it submitted its $233-million modernization plan to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission earlier this week.

“This is the biggest investment we’ve ever made in the history of our company,” said Paul Flaherty, president of NorthwesTel.

He’s hopeful that northerners will see the merits of the plan and show their support in comments to the regulator.

“It’s important that the CRTC hear from people and understand that we’re hitting the mark, so to speak,” said Flaherty.

The plan would see 3G wireless services expanded to 99 per cent of the company’s service area.

In the Yukon, only Champagne and Swift River would be without cellphone service.

Features like call display would be available in all 96 communities that NorthwesTel services and Internet speeds would be improved.

In some cases, speeds would double or triple, said Flaherty.

Number portability would also be greatly expanded, allowing people to keep their old phone number if they decide to leave NorthwesTel and sign on with one of the telco’s growing number of competitors.

NorthwesTel would also expand its Internet transport system, Wholesale Connect, to 57 communities from 30.

Wholesale Connect allows third-party Internet providers and phone companies to buy bandwidth in bulk, which is vital for facilitating competition.

The only communities that won’t be covered by the service are those that are accessed by satellite.

Keno City will be the only exception.

“Basically, for all intents and purposes, in 100 per cent of terrestrial communities competitors will have access to that service,” said Flaherty.

The CRTC ordered NorthwesTel to produce this modernization plan after lambasting the telco for the age and quality of its network infrastructure in a decision issued in December 2011.

NorthwesTel first submitted a $273-million plan last year.

That plan included $40-million from its parent company Bell Canada Enterprises. That money would have been paid out from the public benefits fund associated with Bell’s $3.4-billion bid to buy Astral Media, a specialty TV and radio company.

The CRTC scuttled that deal, forcing NorthwesTel to go back to the drawing board.

“What we had to figure out was how to combine as much as we were trying to do, without that Astral funding,” said Flaherty. “I think we’ve done a pretty good job.”

NorthwesTel is also partnering with other companies to make this plan happen.

“We’ve partnered with Falcon Communications and they’re going to bring, along with Infrastructure Canada, $15-milllon to the table and that will allow us to do every community in the Northwest Territories, for example,” said Flaherty.

The plan is set to take five years to fully implement, although Flaherty said that timeline is dependent on the company’s earnings.

“Our revenues have slowed a little more than we thought they might because of what’s happening in the North,” he said. “We’re not saying we wouldn’t do the $233-million, but it might be over a longer period of time.”

The plan is now before the regulator, which will give the public and NorthwesTel’s competitors a chance to comment on it.

“We’re excited about the opportunity and really think that this is going to make a difference for northerners,” said Flaherty.

Contact Josh Kerr at

joshk@yukon-news.com

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

Just Posted

In a Feb. 17 statement, the City of Whitehorse announced it had adopted the what3words location technology used for emergency response. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Three words could make all the difference in an emergency

City of Whitehorse announced it had adopted the what3words location technology

Jesse Whelen, Blood Ties Four Directions harm reduction councillor, demonstrates how the organization tests for fentanyl in drugs in Whitehorse on May 12, 2020. The Yukon Coroner’s Service has confirmed three drug overdose deaths and one probable overdose death since mid-January. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Three overdose deaths caused by “varying levels of cocaine and fentanyl,” coroner says

Heather Jones says overdoses continue to take lives at an “alarming rate”

Wyatt's World for Feb. 24, 2021.
WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World for Feb. 24, 2021.

Approximately 30 Yukoners protest for justice outside the Whitehorse courthouse on Feb. 22, while a preliminary assault hearing takes place inside. The Whitehorse rally took place after the Liard Aboriginal Women’s Society, based in Watson Lake, put out a call to action over the weekend. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Courthouse rally denounces violence against Indigenous women

The Whitehorse rally took place after the Liard Aboriginal Women’s Society put out a call to action

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

The Yukon government and the Yukon First Nations Chamber of Commerce have signed a letter of understanding under the territory’s new procurement policy. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
First Nation business registry planned under new procurement system

Letter of understanding signals plans to develop registry, boost procurement opportunities

US Consul General Brent Hardt during a wreath-laying ceremony at Peace Arch State Park in September 2020. Hardt said the two federal governments have been working closely on the issue of appropriate border measures during the pandemic. (John Kageorge photo)
New U.S. consul general says countries working closely on COVID-19 border

“I mean, the goal, obviously, is for both countries to get ahead of this pandemic.”

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse on Nov. 22, 2018. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Start of spring sitting announced

The Yukon legislature is set to resume for the spring sitting on… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse City Council this week

Most Read