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Two-way satellite comes North

Fort Liard group plans to sell service to companies

Jennifer McPhee
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Dec 17/01) - Internet options are on the verge of expanding in some Northern communities.

Two-way satellite is mostly just for big corporations in remote areas that can afford to drop $20,000 on a 16-foot dish.

However, the Acho Dene Corporate Group in Fort Liard recently struck a deal with Quick Link Communications in Calgary.

It gives the ADK and the band broadband Internet capabilities.

Before this, only a dial-up connection was available which meant calling Yellowknife and racking up long-distance charges.

In the future, Fort Liard residents will also benefit from the deal.

"Potentially, we could act as an internet service provider," said Shane Parrish, CEO of the Acho Dene Corporate Group.

"Down the road, that will happen."

The group plans to sell the service to different companies in its building and install the service in remote camps.

"If we could share the use of it, we cut costs for everybody."

"This type of solution makes a lot of sense," said Parrish.

Steve Palechek, manager of Kitikmoet Supplies in Cambridge Bay, says residents are still at the mercy of the sluggish dial-up system.

"There's no way of getting it any faster, unless you want to spend some real money and buy a satellite dish," he said.

Cambridge Bay resident James Patterson did just that. Patterson's six-foot dish improves the signal quality and the direct PC he uses allows him to download programs and software at least three to eight times faster.

"I can do a lot more surfing on the Internet and get stuff I wouldn't have dreamed of getting off of dial-up."

But he doesn't have two-way satellite, so he relies on dial-up for sending out information.

According to Patterson, two-way satellite requires a federal licence, professional installation, more hardware and a lot more money.

"It's possible, but it will cost you," he says.

Two-way satellite would cost him $4,000 plus installation and other annual and monthly costs.

Multi-media package

Computers are like athletes. Unfortunately, they must retire at a young age.

"Anything over three years old is what I call an eye-roller," says Jon Liv Jaque, manager of CasCom in Yellowknife.

While he recommends buying an "upgradable" computer, he says consumers sometimes misunderstand this phrase.

"Upgradable doesn't mean five years from now, you'll be able to spend $100 and make it work like current computers," he says.

This year, computer dealers are selling operating systems geared toward Internet and digital video to help you stay in touch.

You can now hook a camcorder up to your system and e-mail video.

These systems include DVD players and CD writers so you can create your own CDs.

Many systems now have modems and high-speed Internet cards already installed for cable or DSL.

The computer has become a complete multi-media package, says Yellowknife Radio Shack sales clerk Hughie Graham.

"You can make your own film on these computers - that's how advanced they have become in the last year," he says.

Graham adds the technology is changing so fast that a program is now available just to dump information from old computers onto new systems. The good news for consumers is that computer prices have dropped by 10 to 20 per cent over the last four months.

"That's the industry, it is always getting faster and cheaper," says Graham.