Hay River residents can begin signing up for fibre internet packages after Northwestel completed work to upgrade the community’s connection.
The telecoms company said on Monday residents could now access speeds of up to 250 Mbps with twice the previously available data cap. Last year, Northwestel said Hay River customers could only get a maximum speed of 15 Mbps.
The new speeds put the town on a par with Yellowknife for connectivity. Hay River had previously used DSL internet.
At the moment, only individual homes can get the service. Northwestel said apartments and businesses are trickier to hook up and that will happen “at a later phase.”
On Monday, prices for Hay River on Northwestel’s website started at $42 monthly for 20 GB of data and a 5 Mbps download speed.
The top package, 500 GB with a 250 Mbps download speed, retailed for $240 per month. The prices were identical to those available in Yellowknife.
In the past, Northwestel has said it would like to roll out unlimited data plans for residents of some communities in the near future. Those details have yet to be announced.
Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, Northwestel said it would only take requests for the new fibre service through its website “to minimize congestion in our northern call centres.”
The company said it would limit the number of installations each week “to ensure adequate time for proper health and safety procedures.”
“We appreciate the community’s patience with the extra measures we have put in place,” said the company’s president, Curtis Shaw.
While more than 90 percent of homes can be covered, Northwestel says it can’t afford to include a small number of homes in outlying areas.
Kandis Jameson, the mayor of Hay River, said in a Northwestel video the service would open up more possibilities for telehealth – delivery of health services remotely – and education.
“Hay River is going to be benefiting from really what is the best broadband connectivity in the world right now,” said Tammy April, Northwestel’s vice-president of consumer markets.
Northwestel has extended its pandemic relief measures into May. That means overage fees will continue to be waived for some customers this month, while others will have their data cap doubled or an extra 100 GB added, depending on their service.