Minister says he'll talk to Northwestel about backups for Yellowknife fibre optic line

N.W.T. Finance Minister Robert C. McLeod said he will discuss issues about fibre optic line cuts after Monday's widespread telecommunications outage.

'I think it's a conversation that needs to be had,' says Finance Minister Robert C. McLeod

N.W.T. Finance Minister Robert C. McLeod says he'll meet with Northwestel to discuss possible backups for Yellowknife should the fibre optic line be damaged again in the future. (Guy Quenneville/CBC)

N.W.T.'s finance minister is promising to speak with the territory's largest telecommunications provider, after a second major outage Monday stifled Yellowknife businesses and affected phone services across the North.

RCMP said they're investigating the incident as vandalism on the capital's fibre optic line. The fibre line was also damaged last month, disrupting phone, internet and TV services to Yellowknife and surrounding communities for about 10 hours.

Finance Minister Robert C. McLeod responded to questions from Kam Lake MLA Kieron Testart Tuesday afternoon at the N.W.T. Legislative Assembly.

"Has the government done any planning to investigate improving our redundancy so … when a fibre line is cut, it doesn't knock everything out?" asked Testart.

Redundancy means there are several connections in the fibre line between communities; the network would keep working even if one connection got damaged, as another connection would pick up the slack instantaneously. 

Northwestel had said a majority of the fibre optic cable running into the N.W.T. is protected by a redundant loop, or a secondary fibre path, although there is no redundant line in the single optic cable running from Fort Providence to Yellowknife.

"My office, myself directly, have had no discussions with Northwestel," McLeod said in response to Testart. "But I think it's a conversation that needs to be had."

This temporary emergency fibre optic cable lies on the ground along Highway 3 by Yellowknife, following the July 13 fibre cut. RCMP are investigating another act of vandalism to the fibre line after a widespread telecoms outage on Monday, the second incident in a month. (Kate Kyle/CBC)

"One of my largest concerns [is] how these disturbances can disrupt the productivity and livelihood of business owners in particular," said Testart. The MLA then asked the minister what efforts Northwestel has put into improving redundancy to Yellowknife.

McLeod said he wasn't sure if Northwestel has particular plans for redundancy to Yellowknife, but he said the last few disruptions highlight the need for backups in the southern part of the N.W.T, especially for the capital city.

"I will commit to the member that I will have those discussions," said McLeod.


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