Question Period Note: HIGH SPEED INTERNET IN THE NORTH
- Reference number:
- Date received:
- Jan 4, 2023
- Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada
- Name of Minister:
- Hutchings, Gudie (Hon.)
- Title of Minister:
- Minister of Rural Economic Development
What is the Government of Canada doing to support access to high-speed Internet infrastructure in the North?
• The Government of Canada is investing billions of dollars to help ensure that all Canadians have access to reliable high-speed Internet, no matter where they live.
• Since 2015, the government has announced over $353 million for connectivity projects in the North. This includes nearly $59 million for the Dempster Fibre Project, which is well underway.
• The government has also committed $1.44 billion to support Telesat’s Low-Earth Orbit satellite constellation and entered into a $600 million agreement with Telesat to secure Internet capacity for hard-to-reach communities, including in the far North.
• The government has announced nearly $12 million under the Universal Broadband Fund (UBF) Rapid Response Stream for three projects in the North that will be completed in the near term. More UBF projects in the North will be announced in the coming months.
• The government is aware of the pending expiry of Xplornet service impacting some northern customers, including in Yukon and has worked to analyze all options to avoid disruption in service.
• The government is pleased that Xplore has extended satellite services in the Yukon into 2023 and is optimistic that other service providers will be available for residents in 2023.
• The government is aware that the launch date for Telesat’s LEO constellation has been delayed to 2026 due to the pandemic’s ongoing influence on global supply chains and inflation. The Government of Canada and provincial partners will continue to work with Telesat to achieve the common goal of providing access to high speed internet to the hardest to reach Canadians. Once operational, the governments’ investment in Telesat will help to connect approximately 40,000 very remote households.
• Before construction could begin on the Dempster Fibre project, the Government of Canada, working closely with the Government of Yukon, took every necessary step to ensure all environmental impacts were considered and to ensure appropriate consultations with Indigenous communities were held. The federal government will continue to work closely with the Government of Yukon to ensure timely project completion.
Government funding has often been needed to build and sustain Internet infrastructure projects in the North given the region’s climate, terrain and vast distances, which often make terrestrial infrastructure like fibre optic cable especially challenging. Since 2015, the Government of Canada has committed over $353 million for 14 connectivity projects in the territories. Key connectivity initiatives that impact the North include:
• The Universal Broadband Fund (UBF): The $3.225 billion UBF is helping to bring 50/10 Mbps Internet service to 98% of Canadians by 2026 and all Canadians by 2030. This includes one project in the Northwest Territories totalling $5 million and two projects in Nunavut totalling nearly $7.0 million.
• Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission’s Broadband Fund: $750 million to help improve connectivity across the country. This includes two projects in the Yukon totaling $42.5 million and two in Northwest Territories totalling $20.9 million.
• Connect to Innovate (CTI): Budget 2016 provided $500 million to establish the CTI program, which received an $85 million top-up in Budget 2019 to bring improved Internet speeds to over 975 rural and remote communities across Canada, including 190 Indigenous communities.
• Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite developments: The government has partnered with Telesat and committed through Budget 2019 up to $600 million to secure LEO satellite capacity over Canada to serve rural and remote northern communities.The government has also entered into an agreement-in-principal for $1.44 billion to support Telesat’s Low-Earth Orbit satellite constellation.
• The Canada Infrastructure Bank’s (CIB) $2 billion in financing for large, high-impact broadband projects.
• The $2 billion Rural and Northern Communities stream of the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program, which includes broadband, among other infrastructure projects.
• The First Nation Infrastructure Fund (FNIF), which helps First Nation communities improve and increase public infrastructure, including through connectivity projects, to improve the quality of life and the environment for First Nation communities.
• Dempster Fibre Line: The Government of Yukon received up to $30 million from Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED) and up to another $29 million from Infrastructure Canada to build an 800-kilometer long fibre optic line from Dawson City, Yukon to Inuvik, Northwest Territories. This loop will allow for a backup line to provide more reliable Internet and cellular service. Necessary environmental assessments and Indigenous consultations pushed the start date of construction, and subsequently the forecasted project end date has changed from March 2021 to March 2023.