Yellowknife Internet Fibre Redundancy

While canvassing door to door on this past weekend I had the opportunity to have a good discussion with Paul Gillard, VP of Business Markets for Northwestel on the issue of fibre redundancy.   As well as our conversation has provided me with the following information, through an email.  I very much appreciate his engagement. I also discuss Internet fibre redundancy in my response to the Yellowknife Chamber of Commerce Vote Grow platform.

Here is some information on the redundant fibre as Paul and I discussed when we talked.

  • Historically cuts happen at a rate of just over 1 per year.  Recently we had two close together which sharpened focus on the issue.  Both were caused by vandalism.
  • NWTel has taken several steps to protect the existing fibre from vandalism.  Apart from working with the RCMP we’ve raised low spots, installed some cameras and have private security patrolling the line.  While these are useful they are no defence against fire, lightning, road construction and several other threats that could cut the fibre.  What is really required is a second redundant cable.
  • Fibre optic cable is best deployed in loops.  A cut anywhere on that loop and traffic just flows the other way.  None of the impacts we have seen recently happen.  For Yellowknife, the best way to accomplish this is with a fibre out by Dettah, under the lake and out at Fort Resolution.  It would connect to existing fibre and create a loop.  Cost estimate for the build is $20-25M, but this needs more due diligence in the field to get a final design and a hardened cost.
  • NWTel has proposed to the GNWT that we share cost on the make-ready work to build this fibre.  Cost estimates for design, some geotechnical work and community engagement (any future build would be on traditional lands on both sides of the lake and NWTel would like to start discussions there at the beginning of the project) and a start to permitting are $3M.  Once complete NWTel would work with GNWT to pursue Federal funding to execute the build.
  • Competition – Sometimes folks will ask if this build should be given to a competitor of NWTel.  Mr. Gillard’s respectful answer is that no one else is likely to want it other than the construction (which NWTel will be subcontracting out).  Redundant fibre doesn’t add revenue.  It’s all capital and operating cost, with all the billing staying the same.  NWTel is willing to contribute millions to the build and operate the asset into perpetuity at our cost.  No one else will.  Its cost without revenue.  Also, Mr. Gillard pointed out that one of the streams of data that will be protected by such a build are those of NWTel competitors.  They will benefit. 
  • Timing – If meaningful progress is to happen with the make-ready work in 2019 the GNWT will have to decide on NWTel’s offer to share costs this October (snow flies a few weeks later and fieldwork is required).    

In closing, Mr. Gillard says that NWTel believes Yellowknife needs a redundant fibre.  “NWTel absolutely on board for working with all levels of Government to get it done and are willing to contribute meaningfully to the costs of the project.”  

It looks like we all want to move in the same direction with internet redundancy for residents and businesses of Yellowknife and other effected NWT communities. I look forward to putting my head together with other decision-makers to take the right steps to get the job done.

If you have any comments on fibre Internet redundancy in Yellowknife I’m happy to have chat with you. You can always contact me through my contact page.


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