Members of the Dempster Fibre Project team hosted an open house presentation in Inuvik on April 24 to answer any questions residents might have about the project.
The proposed project is a 777-km fibre optic line that would travel along the Dempster Highway from Dawson City, Yukon, to Inuvik. The fibre optic line is expected to be completed by 2021, and would connect with the GNWT’s existing Mackenzie Valley Fibre Line, resulting in a continuous 4,000 km-long fibre loop.
“This has been identified as a strategic project by Government of Canada, the government of the Yukon and Northwestel,” said Darryl Froese, project manager for the Dempster Fibre Project. “What that means is that all three parties have actually looked at this and identified it as something that is necessary for the economic sustainability for the North.”
Plans for the project began sometime around 2012, according to Froese. After the completion of the Mackenzie Valley Fibre Line in 2017, he said the Yukon Government was looking at building a similar fibre line from Dawson City, Yukon, to Inuvik, or one from Whitehorse, Yukon to Skagway, Alaska.
“They looked at the pros and cons of each, and what they settled on was that it was more beneficial to the entire North and the Yukon itself to have a fibre line that went from Dawson to Inuvik,” said Froese. “The primary reasons are because Inuvik has a link already down south, we’d then be providing redundant fibre for not just the Yukon, we’d be providing it for the NWT and for some of the satellite communities as well that are hooked into the network.”
Another reason Inuvik was selected as the destination, he continued, was to allow the Yukon government to retain sovereign control over the line.
“If we had gone to Skagway, we were then reliant on another country for those fibre services. This way, it’s entirely within Canada and we retain full control over it,” he said.
Construction of the $79-million project is expected to begin sometime this year, with an operating cost of $60 million over a 20-year span. The federal government is providing 75 per cent of the funding, while the Yukon government will have ownership of the line and Northwestel will maintain and operate it.
“If there’s a disruption in the (Mackenzie Valley Fibre Line) around Norman Wells, right now, any telecommunications from Inuvik would have nowhere to go. That disruption would cause all of Inuvik to lose their communications,” said Froese. “Once the Dempster Fibre Line is complete though, if there’s a disruption around Norman Wells, all the traffic can be routed down the Dempster Fibre Line, connect to the existing Northwestel line in the Yukon and then run down to Alberta.”
More than 70 communities in the Yukon, NWT, Nunavut and British Columbia are expected to benefit from the project upon its completion.
“Once this is done, service interruption won’t even be noticed,” said Froese.