It’s hard to believe but in Canada landline telephone service is considered an essential service while broadband is not. Over the past 10 years, Nunavut has benefited from a series of federal investments in broadband infrastructure. While the investments helped bring Internet access to all Nunavut communities in 2005 and supported it since, they are not adequately meeting the evolving needs and aspirations of Nunavut users and unless significant change is realized, the digital divide within the North and between North and South will continue to widen.
According to a recent study by the Conference Board of Canada’s Centre for the North, Nunavut has, on average, the highest cost and lowest service levels of any jurisdiction in Canada when it comes to telecommunication services:
Nunavut’s vast landmass (2 million square kilometres – 20% of Canada’s land mass and 40% of Canada’s coast line), our dispersed and modest population (33,000 residents in 25 communities, with population being more equally dispersed than in other parts of Canada where the majority of the population is concentrated in major urban centres), and the high cost of doing business up here contribute to the high cost of service. As well, because Nunavut has no terrestrial links to the rest of Canada, we are entirely reliant on satellites for all our telecommunication services. And while next generation satellites with higher throughput service more populated parts of North America, Nunavut is currently only served by an older generation of satellites that are reaching their end of life.
At the same time, it should be noted that there are still rural parts of southern Canada, and especially remote aboriginal communities in the provincial North, who have less services and/or higher costs than Nunavut.
NBDC has been advocating for a revision of the regulatory and funding frameworks for telecommunication services in the North to recognize that broadband is an essential service and to support the availability and affordability of broadband access in all Nunavut communities, alongside voice service.