The technology connecting you to your local service provider (within your community) is called the “last mile” technology. In Nunavut there are several last mile technologies including wireless and ADSL. Next in the chain is the technology connecting the local service provider to the Internet (the rest of the world). This is called “backhaul” and in Nunavut there is only satellite backhaul. 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.
There are other backhaul options and in 2011 NBDC commissioned a fibre feasibility study in order to have accurate and current information on the costs, challenges and benefits of alternate backhaul technologies, namely fibre optic, microwave and next generation satellite.
Nunavut can learn a lot by looking at our eastern neighbours. Greenland also has no terrestrial links between communities yet they have a telecommunication network providing a wide range of services to all communities through a mix of fibre, microwave and satellite backhaul. For example, all communities have ADSL service, regardless of the backhaul technology. All settlements with 70 or more residents have 2G cell phone service and 3G service is available in all cities, some villages and some recreational areas/transport corridors. Even sheep and caribou farmers living outside settlements have direct satellite Internet access – at the same price as the basic ADSL rates.
The bottom line is: it’s not a question of technology, it’s a question of public policy. It takes political will and adequate funding to ensure that all Nunavut residents have adequate, affordable and equitable telecommunication services regardless of the backhaul technology.