The president of New North Networks is questioning Northwestel’s decision to install a fibre-optic network in Inuvik.
As first reported by CKLB, Tom Zubko said he’s “disappointed” by the telecoms giant’s announcement that it will expand its fibre-to-the home service to Inuvik, where his company is based.
Zubko feels Northwestel – the dominant internet provider in Canada’s North – is spending money on Inuvik because New North is one of the only competitors it has.
“It does seem kind-of odd that they’re spending a substantial amount of money to compete with their only facilities-based competitor in the Northwest Territories,” he said.
Zubko said that while Northwestel gets a significant amount of money annually from the federal government, New North does not receive government subsidies. Zubko’s company uses the Mackenzie Valley Fibre Link, a territorial government-backed line connecting Inuvik to the south.
Earlier this week, Northwestel announced it would replace existing copper wiring with fibre-optic lines to Inuvik residents’ homes, providing a faster and more reliable service. The company has just finished doing the same in Hay River.
Inuvik is the third-largest community in the NWT, behind Yellowknife and Hay River.
“Our focus is on providing the best service to our Northwestel customers,” Northwestel’s Andrew Anderson said. “Doing the next-largest community made sense on that front.”
Zubko said he doesn’t expect “too much erosion” of his customer base, saying his company’s rates are “cheaper than what Northwestel’s planning to offer service for.”
Northwestel has not made public its planned prices in Inuvik once fibre-to-the-home is installed, though they are likely to fall in line with fibre prices elsewhere in the NWT.
At the moment, Northwestel’s cheapest fibre plan for NWT customers offers 25 GB of data for $41.95 per month, at speeds of 5 mbps for downloads and 1 mbps for uploads. Its priciest plan is $239.95 per month for 750 GB of data at 250 mbps for downloads and 15 mbps for uploads.
New North’s cheapest plan is $56.40 per month for 100 GB of data at speeds of 5 mbps for downloads and 1 mbps for uploads. You can get 600 GB for $138.40 a month with speeds of 50 mbps for downloads and 10 mbps for uploads.
Unlike Northwestel, New North currently offers two unlimited plans: one costs $167.60 per month at 25 mbps for downloads and 10 mbps for uploads, or you can pay $218.40 a month to double the download speed.
Northwestel recently said it hopes to offer unlimited plans across the North within three years, if it’s approved for funding from the CRTC’s Broadband Fund.
Correction: July 10, 2020 – 10:28 MT. An earlier version of this article misstated the price and specifications of Northwestel’s most expensive fibre plan. It’s actually $239.95 per month, not $189.95 per month.