North

Unlimited internet now available in Dawson City, Watson Lake

Three communities — Dawson City, Watson Lake and Upper Liard — now have fibre-to-the-home connection, Northwestel says.

Northwestel says more Yukon communities to get fibre connection next summer

Dawson City, Yukon. Northwestel says internet speeds in Dawson, Watson Lake and Upper Liard will now be 16 times faster than what customers in those communities have had. (Chris MacIntyre/CBC)

Faster internet and unlimited data packages are now available in more Yukon communities, Northwestel announced this week.

Three communities — Dawson City, Watson Lake and Upper Liard — now have fibre-to-the-home connection, the company said. The upgrades were paid for with money from a federal government fund and from Northwestel.

"This is a real tried-and-true technology," said Northwestel president Curtis Shaw.

"This fibre network is all brand new and I expect this to be highly reliable, really good service for residents."

Shaw said internet speeds will be 16 times faster than what customers in those communities now have.

Northwestel is aiming to connect more Yukon communities to fibre internet by next summer. Those include Haines Junction, Beaver Creek and Destruction Bay. The company said its three-year plan is to bring high-speed unlimited internet to 10,000 homes in the Yukon and the N.W.T.

The project received $62 million in funding from the CRTC Broadband Fund to help meet that goal. That fund was established to provide $750 million in federal funding over five years, to improve internet in underserviced areas across Canada.

'Connectivity gap' still widening in Canada, report says

Meanwhile, a new report says that more needs to be done, and faster, to close the "connectivity gap" that exists between different parts of the country.

The report, penned by an expert panel from the Council of Canadian Academies, argues that despite millions in government investments, too many communities are being left behind when it comes to faster, more reliable internet service.

Karen Barnes, chair of the panel and a former president of Yukon University, said the connectivity gap between urban and rural Canada doesn't just persist — it's actually widening.

'The federal government has for a very long time relied on the private sector to solve this problem,' said Karen Barnes, chair of the Council of Canadian Academies. (Philippe Morin/CBC)

"I think what the panel really came to understand was the federal government has for a very long time relied on the private sector to solve this problem, and the private sector, it does what it does. You know, it's intended to make a profit," Barnes said.

"And so, of course, urban centres, much bigger populations, are better bang for the buck for the private sector."

She says it's good that the federal government continues to support private companies in upgrading internet services, but she also argues that too often those federal funds favour the larger service providers.

"It needs to be that not just the large telecoms have access to this money. And the reason that smaller providers aren't doing it now is because it's quite onerous to make those applications [for funding]," Barnes said.

"There needs to be much more support for small internet service providers, and a new way of licensing spectrum so that more communities, and particularly Indigenous communities, have access to those tools so that they can control their own internet," she said. 

With files from Dave White and Chris MacIntyre

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