Northwestel: Internet, phone service restored to all customers

A severed fibre line to Yukon was fixed at about 4 p.m. PT, Northwestel said. Thousands of people in the North were without internet and some phone services after the sole fibre line to Yukon was cut.

Cut fibre line left thousands without internet and some phone services on Monday

Thousands of Northwestel customers were without internet and phone service for more than six hours on Monday after a fibre line was damaged by a construction crew. (CBC)

Internet and phone service are back up across the North, after being down for thousands of customers most of Monday.

Northwestel said all services were restored at approximately 4 p.m. PT.

Northwestel said the sole fibre line to Yukon was cut Monday morning in northeastern B.C., disrupting broadband data, long distance and cellular service.

A company spokesman said third-party construction in the area between Muncho Lake and Liard Hot Springs accidentally severed the line.

"These things happen from time to time, particularly when we have third parties that are working in the area," Joel Witten told CBC News. "It's an unfortunate case for everybody."

The fibre line is the only one linking Yukon to the south, and Northwestel has admitted it's vulnerable to damage. Last September, it was cut by construction crews working near Watson Lake, leaving Yukoners with no data connection for the better part of a day.

The company said Monday's outage affected all internet and phone customers in Yukon, as well as customers in Nunavut and the Northwest Territories.

Ellen Drift had driven about two hours into Whitehorse for some errands, which she couldn't complete because of the communications outage.

Ellen Drift drove for two hours to get to Whitehorse, Yukon, for a day of errands, but the communications outage meant she had to wait. (Cheryl Kawaja/CBC )

"I am a little frustrated. I just drove in from Haines Junction for a day of shopping, groceries, banking. And now I will have to wait, I guess," Drift said on Monday morning. "Yes, it does seem to be part of living in the north."

The local and territorial governments were advising residents who needed emergency assistance but couldn't access 911 to send someone to a fire hall or RCMP detachment, where they could radio for help. 

Proposed backup link

Yukon Premier Darrell Pasloski said Monday's outage shows again the necessity of an alternate fibre line to the territory. 

The government is aiming to build a $32-million line along the Dempster Highway to Inuvik, N.W.T., saying that will end frequent internet service disruptions in the territory by providing it with a backup link to southern Canada.

"We're very committed to seeing this project go ahead. It is very important for Yukon businesses," Pasloski said on Monday.

Joel Witten of Northwestel says fibre lines can be damaged 'from time to time' by third-party construction. (Cheryl Kawaja/CBC)

He hopes the federal government helps pay for it, calling it a project with "national significance."

"They have made commitments to enhancing internet connectivity in the north, so we are discussing it with them. I really don't care which pot of money it is, just so long as they partner," Pasloski said.