Six companies expressed interest in building a fibre line along the South Klondike Highway. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News)

Six companies express interest in building South Klondike fibre optic link

The route is one of two being considered to give Yukon a redundant fibre optic source

Six companies have expressed interest in building and operating the South Klondike fibre optic link, one of two routes the Yukon government is considering to create a redundant fibre optic connection for the territory.

“It was probably around what we were expecting. It wasn’t a surprising number, it wasn’t very high or low,” said Steve Sorochan, the director of technology and telecommunications development with the Department of Economic Development.

The department issued a public call-out for expressions of interest on the project July 25, which would connect Whitehorse to Skagway, AK, via Carcross and Fraser, B.C., through the South Klondike Highway. It closed Aug. 24.

Sorochan said he couldn’t provide the names of the companies that responded or any details of their applications as expressions of interest are “provided in confidence” and are not binding in any way.

“If you apply to the expression of interest and a tender comes out later, you’re not excluded, (and) there’s no bonus points for having responded to the EOI, it’s just information gathering only.… There’s no connection between it and a future tender,” he said.

The department will now be “analyzing responses” and making a decision on which route the redundant line will take. The other option for a redundant fibre optics line would be via the Dempster Highway and would connect Dawson City to Inuvik, which Northwestel has already said it would be prepared to operate.

Sorochan couldn’t give a timeline on when the department would finish its analysis and make a decision on the route, but said he “certainly would hope” it would occur within a matter of months.

Currently, the Yukon relies on a single fibre optics line, meaning that if a problem arises, internet in the territory goes down until the line can be fixed. The previous Yukon Party government had originally picked the Dempster route for the redundant line, but after the estimated cost for it ballooned from $32 million to $70 million, the new Liberal government began looking at both routes again.

The background of the expression of interest for the South Klondike route said the Yukon government would consider contributing up to $11.25 million or 80 per cent of the cost, whichever is lower, towards the construction of the line. It also stated the government would own the line, but provide a “ten-year exclusive lease” to the builder to maintain and operate the line.

With files from Ashley Joannou

Contact Jackie Hong at jackie.hong@yukon-news.com

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