Yukon government would own proposed fibre optic line

The Yukon government would own a much-awaited fibre optic line offering internet redundancy to the territory, the News has learned.

The Yukon government would own a much-awaited fibre optic line offering internet redundancy to the territory, the News has learned.

The territorial government applied for funding for two different possible fibre optic line routes, one up the Dempster Highway and one down the South Klondike Highway, the Department of Economic Development said.

The federal government’s Connect to Innovate program has set aside $500 million for all provinces and territories to finance internet infrastructure projects over the next four years. That program could pay for up to 50 per cent of the construction cost of the line. The Yukon government also applied to the federal government’s new small communities fund. Both programs combined could pay for up to 75 per cent of the line’s construction costs.

But to be able to combine both grants, the small communities fund requires the territorial government owns the infrastructure.

That means that the government would have contract out the operation and maintenance of the line to a private company, much like the Northwest Territories’ government-owned Mackenzie Valley Fibre Line (MVFL)

Back in November 2015 the Yukon government announced it would go with a Northwestel-owned fibre line up the Dempster that would connect to the MVFL.

But a year later, a new detailed engineering report put the cost of building that line between $50 million and $75 million, up from $32 million.

That put the possibility of a fibre line going down the South Klondike Highway, previously deemed too expensive, back on the table.

That route would connect to the Alaska Power and Telephone Company’s existing line connecting Skagway to Seattle.

The Yukon government would only own the portion that goes up to the Canadian border and lease capacity on the portion going to Seattle.

For that route, construction costs, including the leasing fees, would be between $30 million and $45 million.

While the leasing costs are included in the upfront cost for the line, those are not eligible for the Connect to Innovate program, said Steve Sorochan, director of technology and telecommunications development at the Department of Economic Development.

The federal government could decide to fund one or either projects, but the Yukon government will make the final decision, Sorochan said.

The department, however, won’t release the operations and maintenance costs for either lines.

“The final operating cost will be determined through procurement, and we do not want to prejudice that process by providing numbers,” Sorochan wrote in a follow-up email.

The federal programs require the project to go through an open tender process. That’s when the final construction costs will be known, Sorochan said.

He said the government expects to hear back from the federal government in late summer early fall about the funding applications.

The new engineering report done by Ledcor, which the Department of Economic Development provided to the News, shows the first cost estimate didn’t account for over 1,100 culverts that would be required.

That first report also proposed to bury the line directly beneath the road bed, something that’s now deemed unfeasible.

“The risk to both the proposed fibre cable and the road structure were deemed excessive by installing the cable in the road prism,” the report reads.

It also recommended against buyring the line in permafrost.

“Upon recommendations from the Northern Climate Exchange as well as Ledcor’s experience with fibre construction on other projects in similar environments, it is proposed to avoid buyring the cable in permafrost,” the report reads.

Ledcor is one of the companies that was involved in the construction of the MVFL.

Instead the second report proposes a combination of shallow buried cable and surface-laid conduit for the majority of the route north of Tombstone National Park to Inuvik.

Surface-laid cable offers “minimal environmental impact and lower construction costs,” the report said.

It did list 10 potential risk associated with surface-laid cable, including cable theft, animals chewing on the line, wildfire and damage from highway accidents.

Environmental and heritage assessments along the line’s route were also conducted but the department refused to release them. Those reports list heritage sites and wildlife habitats, something the department doesn’t want made public over concerns the heritage sites could be disturbed and the wildlife impacted.

The lack of redundancy has caused regular internet outages in the territory during the summer when construction crews have accidentally sliced the only fibre line running through northern British Columbia.

Yukon’s information technology sector has been vocal about the need for redundancy, arguing it’s needed to boost the industry.

Contact Pierre Chauvin at pierre.chauvin@yukon-news.com

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

Just Posted

Dr. Brendan Hanley, Yukon’s chief medical officer of health, speaks at a press conference in Whitehorse on March 30. Hanley announced three more COVID-19 cases in a release on Nov. 21. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Three more COVID-19 cases, new exposure notice announced

The Yukon’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Brendan Hanley, announced three… Continue reading

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: COVID-19 strikes another blow at high-school students

They don’t show up very often in COVID-19 case statistics, but they… Continue reading

The Cornerstone housing project under construction at the end of Main Street in Whitehorse on Nov. 19. Community Services Minister John Streicker said he will consult with the Yukon Contractors Association after concerns were raised in the legislature about COVID-19 isolation procedures for Outside workers at the site. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Concerns raised about alternate self-isolation plans for construction

Minister Streicker said going forward, official safety plans should be shared across a worksite

The Yukon’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley, pictured at a press conference in October, announced three new cases of COVID-19 on Nov. 20 as well as a new public exposure notice. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
New COVID-19 cases, public exposure notice announced

The new cases have all been linked to previous cases

Beatrice Lorne was always remembered by gold rush veterans as the ‘Klondike Nightingale’. (Yukon Archives/Maggies Museum Collection)
History Hunter: Beatrice Lorne — The ‘Klondike Nightingale’

In June of 1929, 11 years after the end of the First… Continue reading

Samson Hartland is the executive director of the Yukon Chamber of Mines. The Yukon Chamber of Mines elected a new board of directors during its annual general meeting held virtually on Nov. 17. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Yukon Chamber of Mines elects new board

The Yukon Chamber of Mines elected a new board of directors during… Continue reading

The Yukon Hospital Corporation has released its annual report for 2019-20, and — unsurprisingly — hospital visitations were down. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Annual report says COVID-19 had a large impact visitation numbers at Whitehorse General

The Yukon Hospital Corporation has released its annual report for 2019-20, and… Continue reading

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

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

City council was closed to public on March 23 due to gathering rules brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. The council is now hoping there will be ways to improve access for residents to directly address council, even if it’s a virtual connection. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Solution sought to allow for more public presentations with council

Teleconference or video may provide opportunities, Roddick says

Megan Waterman, director of the Lastraw Ranch, is using remediated placer mine land in the Dawson area to raise local meat in a new initiative undertaken with the Yukon government’s agriculture branch. (Submitted)
Dawson-area farm using placer miner partnership to raise pigs on leased land

“Who in their right mind is going to do agriculture at a mining claim? But this made sense.”

Riverdale residents can learn more details of the City of Whitehorse’s plan to FireSmart a total of 24 hectares in the area of Chadburn Lake Road and south of the Hidden Lakes trail at a meeting on Nov. 26. (Ian Stewart/Yukon News file)
Meeting will focus on FireSmart plans

Riverdale residents will learn more details of the City of Whitehorse’s FireSmarting… Continue reading

The City of Whitehorse is planning to borrow $10 million to help pay for the construction of the operations building (pictured), a move that has one concillor questioning why they don’t just use reserve funds. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Councillor questions borrowing plan

City of Whitehorse would borrow $10 million for operations building

Most Read