Beginning this week, the community of Nahanni Butte has better and faster internet.
Northwestel, continuing a rollout of improved service to most northern communities, this week said Aklavik and Nahanni Butte can now access high-speed, unlimited fibre internet.
Those communities now have download speeds of up to 50 mbps, up from a previous limit of 15 mbps.
“I already got a call from a tourist highlighting the improvement in speed, and I can see the difference myself,” said Soham Srimani, band manager of the Nahæâ Dehé Dene Band in Nahanni Butte.
Srimani says improving the quality and speed of Nahanni Butte’s internet has been a “personal goal” since the day he arrived.
He explained that critical community needs – like participation in online learning and coursework, video conferencing between the band office and other government leaders, and the operation of the community’s new Parks Canada office – all depend on the service. For Nahanni Butte to grow and participate in the Canadian economy, Srimani said, the community needs to be able to rely on online access.
“The internet has become such an integral part of our lives that to be limited is to be left behind the rest of Canada in terms of healthcare, education, and business growth,” he said. “From tourism growth, to delivery of municipal services, to execution of high-value infrastructure projects, to promotion of local arts and crafts, a stronger internet connectivity is the need of the hour.”
Nahanni Butte is a fly-in (or boat-in) community for more than three months of the year, so Srimani and other community members say access to art, media and entertainment plays an important role in promoting mental health.
“I think it’s great, finally getting a faster source of internet,” said Lory-Ann Bertrand, who acts as the community coordinator. “We got ours installed last week.”
The upgrades are part of a three-year Northwestel project, part-funded by telecoms regulator the CRTC, to introduce better internet connectivity to northern communities. Six more NWT communities are expected to get an upgrade in the next year.
But Srimani said ensuring Nahanni Butte would be part of the project required that council members and Chief Steve Vital worked closely with Northwestel, ensuring the community met requirements to complete the upgrade.
New street signs, house numbers and a Canada Post office were pieces of that puzzle. Work to introduce those things allowed Northwestel to create a functional address database for Nahanni Butte, which Srimani said was a condition of installing fibre optic services.
And the Nahæâ Dehé Dene Band isn’t done. The band says it will continue to work with Northwestel on improvements to the community’s internet in years to come.
“Nowadays, high-speed internet connection is not a luxury. It’s a basic amenity,” said Srimani.