New fibre line’s rollout frays nerves in Hay River

A sign on Highway 3 warns of overhead fibre-optic cabling. Ollie Williams/Cabin Radio

A Hay River resident spent days in confusion after being told she couldn’t connect to Northwestel’s year-old fibre line and get high-speed internet – even though her next-door neighbour could.

Only when Rosalie Patrick, who lives in Hay River’s West Channel outside the downtown core, called Northwestel a third time in a week did she eventually make a breakthrough. The company now says the service can be installed.

When Patrick initially called Northwestel and asked to make the switch to their high-speed fibre network, she was told the company could only offer her DSL, a much slower form of internet service.

Northwestel spokesperson Andrew Anderson said that while more than 90 percent of homes in the town are able to connect to the new fibre network, some homes outside the town’s core cannot do so “because of the high costs associated with running fibre in those areas.”



Patrick said she spoke by phone with a Northwestel employee who told her high-speed internet wasn’t available in her part of the community.

“I said, well, our neighbours bought it,” Patrick told Cabin Radio. She recalled the employee saying words to the effect of: “Maybe they didn’t want to give it to you because it would slow down the internet for others.”

Patrick’s yard borders that of a neighbour with high-speed internet. She estimates the distance between the two houses is six to 10 feet and says she can see the fibre line running between their yards.

“If they brought high-speed internet to Hay River,” she asked, “why are they picking and choosing who they’re giving it to?”



Patrick sought an answer to that question multiple times. The third time she called – after Cabin Radio had also reached out to the company for this report – she found things had changed.

“They’re giving it to us all of a sudden,” she said on Tuesday afternoon. According to Patrick, a company representative told her Northwestel had realized her neighbour did have access to the fibre network, meaning she, too, would be able to connect to the network.

Anderson, asked by Cabin Radio what would explain why two homes in such close proximity would have differing access to services, had written on Monday afternoon: “I’d refer you to our original comment.”

Anderson has previously said Northwestel’s goal is “to expand fibre-to-the-home in the North over the coming years.” There is no published timeline for the expansion of fibre services to all parts of Hay River.