Fibre cut in Northern BC disrupts internet in NWT and Yukon

Last modified: March 13, 2020 at 1:37pm

Service provider Northwestel says internet should be back to normal after a fibre cut in northern British Columbia affected residents in the Northwest Territories and Yukon.

People across the NWT and Yukon reported a widespread internet outage on Friday morning, beginning shortly before 11am. Users of some cellphone networks reported complete loss of cell service at the same time.

Internet services appeared to be returning to normal as of 1:30pm.


Northwestel, which operates the only fibre line internet cables connecting the NWT to the south, had earlier confirmed “a fibre cut in northern BC has caused a disruption to internet, TV, and long-distance phone services in Yukon, Northwest Territories, and northern BC.”

Fort Nelson, in northern BC, is the point at which fibre lines split and head separately to Yukon and the NWT.

Internally on Friday, Northwestel staff were understood to be speculating that road construction in Fort Nelson may have played a role in the outage.

“A technical issue which prevented traffic on a secondary line has been resolved and service has now resumed as normal,” spokesperson Andrew Anderson told Cabin Radio.

“Northwestel crews are continuing repairs on the fibre cut, which are expected to be complete today. We thank our customers for your patience during this event.”


Unfortunate timing

The outage came as many employers in the North were beginning to consider travel restrictions, or asking employees to work from home, in response to the growing coronavirus pandemic.

Many NWT government websites failed to load during the outage – even for residents able to use data on cellphones – including websites containing information for people with symptoms of coronavirus-caused Covid-19 or requiring tests.

Northwestel’s own website experienced a similar issue.

At the legislature, where politicians have two days remaining before a suspension of the sitting to focus on Covid-19 preparedness, a live stream of proceedings blinked out as the outage struck.


The full impact of the outage on territorial government preparations for coronavirus was unclear. NWT government staff received a notice stating the outage was territory-wide.

“I can’t access any of the files I wanted to work on,” said one employee. “What a Friday.”

Air North, based in Whitehorse, told customers the outage was limiting its ability to help customers. Many travellers have spent hours this week on hold to airlines, looking to rebook or contact staff for coronavirus-related advice about their tickets.