CRTC calls for input to fix telecom services in North – The Globe and Mail

See on Scoop.itNWT News

[excerpt]

Canada’s telecom regulator is launching a landmark consultation that promises to transform communications services in the Far North.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission said on Thursday it wants citizens to participate in a public process that will scrutinize how NorthwesTel Inc. offers telecom services to northern Canadians.

NorthwesTel, which is a subsidiary of Montreal-based BCE Inc., is often the only choice for residential and business customers in Yukon, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut. NorthwesTel also serves northern areas of British Columbia and Alberta.

The CRTC’s goal is to provide northern Canadians with communications services that are on par with those in the rest of the country. About 107,200 people live across the three territories. A persistent lack of affordable telecom choices and modern networks are barriers to providing basic services such as banking, health care, education and policing.

A robust communications infrastructure is seen as crucial to ensuring Canada’s Arctic sovereignty and spurring economic development – both priorities for the federal government. In spite of a burst of investment from mining and exploration companies, the dearth of communications infrastructure remains a stumbling block for northern businesses.

“Canadians expect to have a choice of high-quality telecommunications services, regardless of where they live,” CRTC chairman Jean-Pierre Blais said. “Last year, we expressed concern about the services available to northern Canadians and required NorthwesTel to develop a plan to modernize its aging network. The consultation launched today will allow us to conduct a comprehensive review of NorthwesTel’s services and its planned improvements.”

The CRTC has grown increasingly impatient with NorthwesTel in recent years, noting it “failed to make the necessary investments in its network” despite receiving about $20-million a year in contribution subsidies to improve local telephone services.

That frustration culminated in a December, 2011, decision by the CRTC that opened up the North to local telephone competition, prompting companies such as Iristel Inc. and SSI Micro to announce plans to offer competitive services.

[…]

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See on m.theglobeandmail.com

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