The Yukon government says a fibre optic line it's planning to build along the Dempster Highway to Inuvik, N.W.T., will end frequent internet service disruptions in the territory by providing it with a backup link to Southern Canada.
The $32 million cable will connect to a fibre optic line being built up the Mackenzie Valley to Inuvik, according to Steve Sorochan, the territory's Director of Technology and Telecommunications Development. The government hopes to have the project completed in about two years.
Frequent cable cuts along the Alaska Highway have become a big inconvenience for business and residential users. The cuts affect diagnostic equipment at the Whitehorse hospital that rely on a connection to southern hospitals, shut down debit and credit card services, and many businesses are forced to close during the disruptions.
People won't 'even notice' fibre cable cuts
The benefits of what's called the North Canada Fibre Loop will be noticed by people territory-wide, Sorochan says.
"Something like a fibre cut occurs and it's something they wouldn't even notice anymore," he says.
The government had also considered constructing a line to Juneau, Alaska, but Sorochan says the government decided the all-Canada line — an option put forward by service provider — Northwestel will provide better service to Yukon communities.
Northwestel says it will accelerate the fibre connection to Dawson City, Yukon, and contribute to the cost of the main line to Inuvik.
The owner of the Alchemy Café in Dawson, City, Florian Boulais, provides free Wi-Fi to customers and also services Apple products. He says Dawson already has a good internet connection, but access is expensive, and hopes that the new line will lower his expenses.
"You know, I don't feel really limited by the speed too much," says Boulais, "but I think it's more the cost that is a limiting factor."
Announcement welcome surprise for Inuvik mayor
The fibre optic connection could encourage competitors to enter the Dawson market. Those details — along with the respective roles of Northwestel and the territorial government — are still to be announced, according to Sorochan.
"There are some details we're still working towards," he says. "However, the commitment to see the line built by 2017 is really what we're working towards right now."
The government announced the decision at an economic conference in Whitehorse Tuesday morning — a welcome surprise to Inuvik Mayor Jim McDonald, who was in the audience.
The fibre optic line under construction in the Northwest Territories is scheduled to go into operation next summer.
"This link coming from the Yukon will give them the redundancy and some backup as well," says McDonald. "It was a big announcement, and a pretty pleasant one to hear this morning."