Inuvik communications company upset with Northwestel expansion

The Town of Inuvik's office. (CKLB file photo).

The president of an Inuvik-based communications company says he is “disappointed” Northwestel chose his community to expand the Fiber-to-home service.

A Northwestel press release says the Fiber-to-home service will offer improved internet speeds, reliability and data allowances.

But New North Networks, a Inuvik-based communications provider that has been around since the 1990’s, already offers good internet service to the community, says Tom Zubko, president of the company.

Zubko accuses Northwestel, the largest telecommunications company providing service to the North, of expanding the Fiber-to-home service to Inuvik to directly compete with his local business. 

“We’re the only facility based competitor that Northwestel has in any of their communities,” he says. “My reaction is that they chose Inuvik… To compete with us because it’s the only competition they have.”

Andrew Anderson, spokesperson for Northwestel, says in an email the company is expanding Fiber-to-home to Inuvik to ensure customers in the NWT have access to the best service. 

Connectivity in the North

Zubko says although his business doesn’t offer the specific Fiber-to-home service, they do have good internet access in the town and at an affordable price. Something not all northern communities have.

“There’s so many places in northern Canada that dramatically need better service and yet they’re overbuilding in a place that already has pretty good service,” he says. 

“We’re the only facility based competitor that Northwestel has in any of their communities,” Tom Zubko, president of New North Networks.

Inuvik Councillor Clarence Wood says he personally switched from Northwestel to New North Networks about a year ago, a decision he is happy with as there is no local office for Northwestel in Inuvik.

“I’ll stay with New North Networks, a personal decision,” Wood says. “Most people, including myself enjoy dealing with a local representative… You have to call Whitehorse to get any service.”

Northwestel offers services across the three territories, northern B.C. and northern Alberta. It has retail centres in Yellowknife and Whitehorse.

Fibre-to-home in Hay River

Inuvik will be the second community to receive the Fibre-to-the-home service, recognized as Northwestel’s best network technology.

Hay River is the first community to receive the service that grants residents access to download speeds up to 16 times faster than previously offered, the Northwestel website says.

Miranda Raymond and Buddy Robinson of Hay River upgraded to Fibre-to-home service in June and say it is significantly better than their old system.

“It is significantly faster on both the download and the upload,” Raymond says. “We are high data consumers in our household and the increase in data has been a huge bonus.”

Every home within Inuvik’s town limits is eligible for the service, even those who aren’t Northwestel customers.

In order to install the service, construction is required to replace existing network equipment to connect new fibre-optic lines directly outside the homes. This is being run by project partner Valard Construction.

Northwestel is covering the entire costs of the infrastructure upgrades, Anderson says.

There is no charge to residents for the fibre construction to their homes as well as no obligation to purchase Northwestel service after the construction is completed.

“This is a milestone achievement. With these upgrades we will be able to launch Canada’s first full Fibre-to-the-home community in the Arctic Circle,” says Curtis Shaw, Northwestel president, in the release.

The construction for Fibre-to-home in Inuvik is scheduled to be completed over the summer construction season, Anderson says, and the service will launch shortly after that.

About the Author

Luke Carroll
Luke Carroll is a journalist originally from eastern Ontario. He has worked as a reporter and editor in Ottawa, Halifax and New Brunswick. Luke is very excited to live and work in Yellowknife and learn more about the community. If you have a story idea, feel free to send him an email at luke.carroll@cklbradio.com.