Mackenzie Valley fibre optic link 2.5 years away

The Northwest Territories government is getting closer to breaking ground on an 1,000 km fibre optic cable that will bring high speed internet to communities from Fort Simpson to Inuvik.
The red line represents the Government of the Northwest Territories' proposed Mackenzie Valley fibre optic link. The yellow line represents fibre optic cable that's already in place.

People in Fort Simpson got a chance last night to see what 17 mm fibre optic cable looks like.

'I'm not expecting it to bring prices down but I am expecting it bring service up,' says Wendy Groat, who runs a bed and breakfast in Fort Simpson. (CBC)
The Northwest Territories government is planning to stretch the cable the length of the Mackenzie Valley, bringing high speed internet from Fort Simpson to Inuvik on an 1,100 km fibre optic line. 

"It really provides a modern system that is available all over North America, especially in southern Canada,” says Sean Craig, who works for the Government of the Northwest Territories.

Towns along the route currently rely on an older microwave communications system, which Craig says is less efficient and more expensive to maintain.

The new link, he says, will bring many benefits, from growing and diversifying businesses to accessing distance education.

"I'm not expecting it to bring prices down but I am expecting it bring service up,” says Wendy Groat, who runs a bed and breakfast in Fort Simpson. “The service we're going to get is going to be worth the money. If I have to pay the same price I am now, I don't have a problem with that as long as I'm getting what I'm promised and that's super high speed internet."

A poster displayed at a public meeting in Fort Simpson showed the fibre optic route.
Groat says the most important improvement will be in medical services.

"Time is of the essence and if the fibre optic links can help the hospitals get information to professionals faster, it's only going to help us."

The government hopes to begin laying the cable in the winter of 2015, and complete the link by mid-2016, at an estimated cost of $60 to $70 million. 

Three companies have made proposals to finance, operate and maintain the cable for 20 years, however the GNWT would own the line.

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