Inuvik smartens up
Partnership targets ground-breaking project

Daniel MacIsaac
Northern News Services

INUVIK (Aug 20/99) - Inuvik may be just about to get smarter.

Rodger Ulasovetz, a technical specialist with Resources, Wildlife and Economic Development said Sunday that the department is involved in a partnership bidding for a federal government Smart Communities demonstration project.

Ulasovetz said the three-year program, sponsored by Industry Canada, aims to tie in the Internet, telephone service and cable television into one advanced, widely available package.

"Ottawa is sponsoring programs worth $10 million each," he said. "The Inuvik project is worth $4 million and the winner will be announced in the fall."

Ulasovetz said because of the short notice of the proposal deadline earlier this month, RWED was able to hook up with only two other partners -- Arctic Digital Ltd. and Inuvik T.V. Ltd. But he stressed that the partnership could grow.

"If we win, we'll pull in everyone from the community," he said. "We've already received letters of support."

Ulasovetz said winning bidders will have their contribution matched by Ottawa, but he said the competition is tough. The federal government is looking for representatives from each province, but just one for the three territories and one for an aboriginal community.

"If we'd had more time we could have even partnered with someone bigger, like Microsoft," he said, "someone with more money and then designed a bigger project -- and we may still do that."

Ulasovetz said the idea of the Smart Community envisions video, e-mail and the Internet being available in every home and business along with the more typical television cable and telephone. He said the proposed cost to consumers of approximately $125 a month would represent a savings relative to obtaining all of the services separately.

Inuvik TV's Tom Zubko said the project is ground-breaking.

"This is not just about putting in existing technology or catching up with other areas, but getting a couple steps ahead of them," he said. "It's a lot of things and anything you can imagine that has to do with communication -- like promoting communication for education, distance education and learning."

Both Ulasovetz and Zubko said the Smart project would make sense, even for individuals not necessarily interested in computers or e-mail or the Internet.

"It goes right from entertainment to enhanced services such as ordering movies or television programs specific to your interest, or games," he said.

Zubko said a successful bid could mean more business for Inuvik TV.

"It could," he said, "but the approach we take in the company is to enhance the community in a general sense -- and a healthy, knowledgeable, smart community is good for business."

The Inuvik TV boss also said that the more people interested in the program, the lower the service charges would be.