(YELLOWKNIFE) Wednesday, January 20, 2021 – The Standing Committee on Economic Development and Environment provided its views on telecommunications in the North to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) in a submission filed today.
After consulting with northern telecommunications service providers, the Standing Committee made a submission to the CRTC’s review of the regulatory framework for Northwestel Inc. and the state of telecommunications services in the North.
The submission makes recommendations based on consultations held by Committee, and current telecommunications conditions in the Northwest Territories. Issues of most importance to Committee are centralized around affordability, accessibility and reliability of telecommunications services in the NWT. Major issues of concern include: safety hazards from gaps in cellular service on all NWT highways, lack of competition in the telecommunications market in the NWT, the cost for internet data allowances and overages in remote communities, and the fact that the user-price for telecommunication services in the north remains the highest in the country.
“The NWT and most especially the remote communities need a better telecommunications solution. We are faced with the highest cost of living, lowest income bracket, households with the highest number of people, and the most serious need for accessible telecommunications services. We are removed from vital services like hospitals or colleges. We need affordable internet options, for our quality of life”, states Committee Chair Jackie Jacobson.
Committee’s first recommendation to the CRTC is to refresh its approach to telecommunications funding and regulatory oversight in the NWT. Committee believes CRTC funding in the NWT should encourage the development of community network solutions in a way that prioritizes indigenous communities and local businesses. Additionally, Committee recommended that the CRTC provide subsidies and funding to local companies: specifically, companies that provide proof of hiring NWT residents and who set rates that are competitive with the rest of Canada.
Committee also recommended that the CRTC order Northwestel to require Third Party Internet Access, provide wholesale connection to competitors at reasonable rates, and provide retail and wholesale rates that are competitive with the rest of Canada.
Committee also recommends public hearings be held in the NWT as part of the CRTC proceeding on this matter.
This submission, among others, will inform the CRTC’s review. The CRTC has also been conducting a public opinion research project on the matter, with surveys closing today. All parties may file replies to interventions with the Commission by March 24, 2021.