Report suggests Northern subsidies for internet, phone bills

The report released Thursday describes what many Northerners already know — internet service is often slower, less reliable and more expensive here than elsewhere.

Recommends investment in infrastructure, training

A new report by the Conference Board of Canada’s Centre for the North is highlighting some of the problems with internet and phone service in the North.

The report released Thursday describes what many Northerners already know — internet service is often slower, less reliable and more expensive here than elsewhere.

"The demands are incredibly high," said Anja Jeffrey with the Centre for the North. 

"We need to be able to predict what those demands are going to be in the future and then we need to invest in the infrastructure that's needed to meet that demand."

The report also surveyed the basket cost of a residential telephone line with a limited North America plan, a basic cellular phone-voice plan and high-speed Internet.

The Northern Canadian average cost (including northern parts of provinces) was $139 per month, where Yukon and N.W.T. residents paid an average of $150 per month, and Nunavut residents paid an average of $171 per month.

The report includes recommendations for improvements in Northern telecommunications and broadband, such as more government investment in infrastructure, improved reliability, training of IT professionals in the North, and subsidies for home internet and phone service.

The Conference Board of Canada says subsidies would help a knowledge-based economy develop in the North.

A group that lobbies for affordable and reliable broadband is happy with the report's recommendations.

"Top of the list is the need to act now," said Oana Spinu with the Nunavut Broadband Development Corporation.

"The current subsidies that support broadband in the North expire in 2016 and arguably those don't support the level of service Nunavut users want to have."

The conference board also looks at Greenland's fibre-optic link as a possible model for connecting communities in Canada's North and highlights the importance of competition in the North going forward.