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Internet across the board

Yose Cormier
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (July 14/03) - Communities across the NWT and Nunavut will be getting internet access as soon as 2004.

NorthwesTel received permission from the CRTC to provide dial-up internet access to every community in the company's operating area with fewer than 2,000 telephone customers who do not have access to this service.

Right now, 38 communities in Nunavut and the NWT do not have local dial-up access, but starting this year and over the next, that will change.

"It's the first step to connectivity in the North for a lot of these communities," said Anne Kennedy, director of public affairs for NorthwesTel from her office in Whitehorse.

NorthwesTel has also been contacted by a number of groups who are putting together business plans to be a service provider for high-speed internet.

The cost for providing dial-up access will amount to $2 million, which will come from the supplementary funding that Southern telecommunication companies pay into.

The announcement comes almost three years after NorthwesTel had a similar proposal turned down because of cost-effectiveness and objections from internet service providers.

In November of 2000, concerns were raised that the company's proposal to provide toll-free internet access could have potential anti-competitive effects.

However, NorthwesTel was able to convince the CRTC that internet service providers who had raised the concerns were not prepared to provide service to these communities.

In its analysis and determination of the situation, the CRTC noted that while allowing NorthwesTel to provide toll-free access is detrimental to competitiveness, there is no alternative.

The CRTC said in its report that these concerns of competition are outweighed by the public benefits of providing internet access.