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CRTC releases ruling on NorthwesTel review

Posted on: 18-December-2013

On December 18, the CRTC released its ruling in the holistic review of NorthwesTel. In the past year, NBDC has provided comments to the Commission on the matter both in writing and in person. NBDC has reviewed the Commission’s decision and overall there are some very encouraging elements in the decision for Nunavut users:

  1. Recognizing that the modernization plan delivers no improvements in terms of Internet service offerings for Nunavut users:

What NBDC said:

Specifically in terms of High Speed Internet (HSI), NBDC is disappointed to read that the Plan offers no improvements for Nunavut. Instead, NorthwesTel has essentially gone for the “low hanging fruit”, opting to upgrade terrestrially-served communities that already enjoy better services than those available in satellite-served communities.

What the Commission ruled:

…satellite-served communities will continue to lag behind terrestrially served communities in terms of service availability and quality, in particular for broadband Internet and future telecommunications services

  1. Recognizing the need to establish a long-term mechanism to support the provision of telecommunication services in satellite-served communities

Previously, the Commission’s position was:

The Commission considers that the deployment of broadband Internet access services, including deployment in rural and remote areas, should continue to rely on market forces and targeted government funding, an approach which encourages private and public partnerships. Accordingly, the Commission concludes that it would not be appropriate at this time to establish a funding mechanism to subsidize the deployment of broadband Internet access services.

What NBDC said:

The current telecommunications regime is not adequately meeting the evolving needs and aspirations of Northern users and unless significant change is realized, the digital divide within the North and between North and South will continue to widen.

[NBDC] strongly encourages the Commission to recognize broadband as a basic service and to revise the regulatory and funding frameworks for telecommunication services in the North to support the availability and affordability of broadband access in all Northern communities, alongside voice service.

What the Commission ruled:

The Commission considers that transport infrastructure in the North, particularly in satellite-served communities, needs to be addressed. The Commission also considers that, without its intervention, the digital divide within Northwestel’s territory (i.e. terrestrially versus satellite-served communities) will likely not be resolved.

The Commission further stated that it “intends to establish a mechanism to fund infrastructure investment in transport facilities in Northwestel’s operating territory.”

  1. Recognizing the growing consumer demand for mobile voice and data:

What NBDC said:

NBDC acknowledges that there is great demand across Nunavut for wireless services. Today, Nunavut is literally generations behind. As the rest of Canada enjoys 4G wireless services (and 5G standards are being discussed internationally), only a handful of Nunavut communities even have 2G service. NBDC is concerned that the 3G wireless solutions proposed for Nunavut in the Plan will be antiquated by the time they are deployed and Nunavut communities will continue to be generations behind.

What the Commission ruled:

The Commission made its determinations with the view to achieving various objectives, including improved broadband Internet services and increased availability of advanced mobile wireless services, so that northern Canadians receive telecommunications services comparable to those available to other Canadians.

  1. Recognizing the need to specifically address transport cost in satellite served communities:

What NBDC said:

No single technology, no single vendor or service provider will meet all of Nunavut's needs, or indeed all of the North’s needs.

[NBDC supports] using the best backhaul technology in the best location and encouraging competition and innovation in the last mile.

As part of their ruling, the Commission committed to launching an inquiry in 2014 on satellite transport services offered in Canada.

NBDC looks forward to actively participating in the upcoming inquiries and proceedings to continue to advance the interests of Nunavut consumers.