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Arctic Fibre project seeks boost
Connections to remote communities rest on funding from Industry Canada

Daniel Campbell
Northern News Services
Published Monday, February 24, 2014

An effort to connect London to Tokyo with a fibre optic cable via the Northwest Passage could bring remote Nunavut communities more bandwidth and Internet speed - if the federal government pitches in.

Arctic Fibre Inc., a private venture, plans to lay a $620 million fibre optic cable along Nunavut's "backbone." Crossing the Atlantic Ocean, it will connect with Iqaluit, then move through Cape Dorset, Hall Beach, Igloolik, Gjoa Haven and Cambridge Bay as it makes its way towards Asia.

The pathway of the cable could mean more bandwidth and faster and more reliable internet for those communities.

As part of the project, Arctic Fibre has suggested the federal government get on board to help connect the fibre optic cable to the 23 other communities in Nunavut, meaning communities across the territory will share the same internet capabilities.

Arctic Fibre is proposing Industry Canada invest $237 million to help branch off from the main cable line to more remote communities. The company submitted that proposal to Industry Canada in February 2013.

"This secondary network expansion, which would require some form of government support, would ensure the provision of virtually unlimited bandwidth to 98 per cent of the combined Nunavut

and Nunavik population, thereby supporting both economic and social development, while contributing significantly to Canada's nation-building in its Arctic region," the company stated in a press release last July.

The federal government recently announced it would be investing $305 million over five years "to extend and enhance broadband internet service for Canadians in rural and Northern communities," as part of the new budget.

Industry Canada would not confirm if they'd put up the funds for the fibre project.

"The government applauds private sector investments to better connect Canadians," the department said in an email.

They state their $305 million investment will "extend and enhance" broadband service to another 280,000 households.

But the money looks to be going towards Yellowknife-based SSI Micro and Northwestel to update satellite and cable infrastructure, with no indication of any investment into fibre optic infrastructure.

The investment into Northwestel and SSI Micro is intended to bring Northern internet speeds up to five megabits per second per user in all communities, according to the budget.

In an email, Industry Canada stated further details on their investment will be announced in the coming months, but that they'd "welcome proposals from all areas of the country."

The Nunavut Review Board recently ruled Arctic Fibre's proposal would not require an environmental review, though the company still needs approval from Greenland and the United States.

The company expects to have their $620 million backbone network online by December 2015.

Nunavut News/North was unable to reach Arctic Fibre for comment on the federal funding by press time.

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