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The North’s favourite whipping boy

June 19, 2013

The CRTC (Canada’s telecom and broadcast regulator) commences hearings on Northwestel’s modernization plans for northern communities. Northwestel is the company many northerners love to hate since everyone wants unlimited cheap bandwidth for free. 

The CRTC hearings continue on June 19 and 20 in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory. Northwestel serves 120,000 people in the three northern territories and northernmost BC. In the west the company has a terrestrial fibre-optic and digital radio backbone network, while in the east it’s all satellite. The cost of providing a wholesale telephone line in Toronto $5.69/month; in Whitehorse and Yellowknife its $21.40 while in the remote communities its $59.44. Huge geography with a tiny population. The company is owned by BCE and has ~600 employees.

Key features of the Northwestel Plan include the following:

Northwestel’s wholesale rates are about 5 times higher than southern Canada.


Northwestel’s modernization plan seems reasonable. The antiquated CRTC rules that emphasize residential network access in an age of wireless mean there is plenty of scope for the regulator to mess up.