Canada's North in dire need of better wireless, broadband services: report

While Ottawa and Canada's telecoms duke it out over wireless competition in Canada, both may want to pay attention to a new report by the ...

While Ottawa and Canada's telecoms duke it out over wireless competition in Canada, both may want to pay attention to a new report by the Conference Board of Canada, which has identified high costs and lack of broadband and wireless telecommunications in Canada's resource-rich North as a curb on regional economies.

"The high cost of personal telecommunications and high-speed Internet access is constraining consumer uptake of knowledge-based services and new media and limiting the ability of regional economies to diversify," the report says.

Anja Jeffrey, director for the Centre for the North, said, "Connectivity is one of the linchpin issues that cut across multiple sectors of Northern development and policy-making.

"Aboriginal community development, Arctic security, resource development and social outcomes all depend in some way on a sustainable, reliable and affordable system of telecommunications and broadband connectivity."

Mapping the Long-Term Options for Canada's North: Telecommunications and Broadband Connectivity calculates the average price for cell phone service in Nunavut is $171 per month. The average in northern Canada is $139 per month.

Access to broadband Internet is also sorely lacking.

"The Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission target for residential Internet download speeds continues to elude much of the North, especially in aboriginal communities," the report states.

The problems are most pronounced in northern aboriginal communities, about half of whom must rely on satellite for their connectivity, while only 18% of non-aboriginal communities in the North rely on satellite.

"There is a clear need for increased capital investment, both to build up-to-date infrastructure and to improve reliability through redundancy," the conference board concludes. "This investment will have to be supported by governments."

nbennett@biv.com

@nbennett_biv

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