Nfld. & Labrador

Labrador fibre optic link under review: Taylor

The Newfoundland and Labrador government is mulling over a plan to provide a fibre optic connection to Labrador.

The Newfoundland and Labrador government is mulling over a plan to provide a fibre optic connection to Labrador.

Innovation and Trade Minister Trevor Taylor said the project will be a critical service, although government is releasing few details about the plan.

"It's extremely important, given what will undoubtedly be a Lower Churchill [hydroelectric] development, given the mining prospects of Labrador, [and] for a whole variety of reasons," Taylor said.

"We believe that building infrastructure from the Northern Peninsula through Labrador and into Labrador West is absolutely essential."

The Newfoundland and Labrador government has taken criticism for investing $15 million in a $52-million fibre optic network that will connect the island with mainland Canada.

That network, which will compete with an existing Bell Aliant system, will not include coverage in Labrador.

Delivering infrastructure in Labrador— which has a landmass larger than all the Maritime provinces and the island of Newfoundland combined— is a perennial challenge. Labrador communities represent less than six per cent of the province's population.

Covering the area with fibre optic service will be part of the government's broadband initiative, Taylor said.

"The question that we have not an answer to is how much will that cost and what way we should go about doing it," he said.

The system could cost as much as $80 million. The government may seek financial assistance from Ottawa to help pay for a fibre optic link to Labrador.