Overcoming the Digital Divide: Developing the Digital Economy in the Far North

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Soumis par Northwestel Inc. 2010-07-13 14:58:42 HAE

Thème(s) : L'infrastructure numérique

Somaire

5. A strategy for Canada's digital economy should recognize that in remote northern communities, ICT infrastructure is uneconomic and government financial support or subsidies are required from time to time to support upgrades to existing infrastructure in order to keep ICT services and rates at a reasonably similar level as that in southern communities. This is particularly true in communities served off satellite transport where the cost of transporting each additional communications minute or byte is very costly. Furthermore, the various levels of government should coordinate efforts to ensure that the best results are achieved from the contribution spent.

6. ICT includes various services and technologies including Internet, data, mobile, wireline telephone and broadcast distribution. In the North, in most cases, communications traffic rides on one core network, so government funding programs used to provision new/alternate infrastructures can be counter-productive. Specifically, Government funding of alternative service providers adversely impacts the viability of existing providers by reducing their revenues and thereby creating the need for even more Government subsidies.

7. Government programs that fund ICT infrastructure must coordinate efforts and intentions more closely to ensure that the goal of providing the best services possible is achieved in the most effective and efficient way. This includes avoiding the inefficiencies and harm of funding duplicate uneconomic communications infrastructures. Government programs should acknowledge that in high cost areas where ICT infrastructure is generally uneconomic, supporting duplicate network service providers may not be the best way to provide high-quality affordable services over the long term.

8. Government programs should build on existing infrastructure rather than deploy duplicate infrastructure.

9. In addition to programs that contribute to the building of ICT infrastructure, Governments should provide tax incentives to service providers that build ICT infrastructure in uneconomic areas. Furthermore, various regulatory fees incurred by providing communications services to high cost areas should be reduced or eliminated for high cost serving areas. The Federal Government should undertake a review of all such fees with the objective of eliminating them on services provided to high cost serving areas. Moreover spectrum should be made available at little or no cost for services provided in high cost serving areas.

10. Governments across all communities in the Far North must be early adopters of advanced ICT services if the North is going to implement ICT infrastructure and embrace ICT services on a reasonable and timely basis. Governments are the largest customers of communication services in the North. It is critical that governments act as anchor tenants to the adoption of these services in order to create enough demand for these services to be economical to provide.

11. A strategy for Canada's Digital economy requires northern governments to coordinate their requirements and act as early adopters of ICT applications to make ICT infrastructure reasonably economical to provision to remote communities.

12. However there is a danger that governments will develop their ICT services/networks/skills internally and this will not support the development of ICT services and skills outside the government. Thus, productivity gains that could be derived from such development outside of Government will be lost. Northwestel submits that government should consider outsourcing the skills and service development to private or outside firms that would then leverage this knowledge and skill to sell ICT services to Canadian businesses as well as other governments such as Territorial, Municipal and Aboriginal governments.

13. In conjunction with early adoption, Governments must act as role models and showcase the benefits ICT can bring to the business market.

14. ICT overcomes geographical impediments impacting business in the North, by allowing businesses to reach new markets and access new suppliers in a cost effective way. A strategy for Canada's Digital economy must encourage business to adopt ICT by requiring governments to act as role models of ICT adoption, support national campaigns targeted at business on the use of ICT, and provide tax incentives for business adoption of ICT applications.

15. A strategy for Canada's Digital economy requires primary, secondary and post secondary education programs to encourage the development of a culture of awareness of the value ICT can bring to business and productivity so that a new way of thinking transcends to the business place as graduates bring their new skills to their place of employment.

16. In addition, schools should encourage greater use of ICT applications and devices in everyday learning in schools. Governments and the private sector should coordinate efforts to ensure that students have an opportunity to learn the skills, understand the opportunities and have an opportunity to get further education in ICT. More opportunities for continuing education should be made available for businesses and individuals by providing access to on line training programs (video steaming and interactive applications) and various incentives to support employees who seek training in ICT.

17. Governments should also support programs that would encourage ICT growth in the home. Governments should address a root cause of lack of ICT adoption by supporting programs that increase computer penetration in the home.

18. Finally the Government of Canada should develop better metrics to track the success of ICT adoption in the North including collecting relevant statistics on the North more frequently in order to monitor the success of various programs and private sector investment. The impacts of various programs and the issues preventing ICT adoption and success may be somewhat different in the North than in southern Canada, but a lack of appropriate metrics may prevent the development of an appropriate plan to address these issues.


Soumission

I. Introduction

1. Northwestel appreciates this opportunity to provide its views on a strategy for advancing the Canadian digital economy. Northwestel focuses its submission on the importance of an ICT strategy for Canada's Far North, key challenges facing ICT adoption in the North and provides strategies to address those challenges so that a digital divide is avoided and communities of the Far North are not left behind in terms of access to reasonably advanced ICT services. These strategies, if implemented in a coordinated effort between various governments and the private sector, will support increased ICT usage which is a key enabler to long term sustainable productivity growth in Canada's Far North.

2. Northwestel provides communications solutions to all 96 communities in Canada's Far North consisting of a population of 116,000 people, 0.3% of Canada's population. Northwestel's traditional telecommunications service area is the largest in Canada, comprising an operating area of nearly 4,000,000 square kilometres and includes Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, northern British Columbia and Fort Fitzgerald, Alberta.

3. In addition, to its traditional land line services provided as the Incumbent Local Exchange Carrier (ILEC) for the Far North, Northwestel also provides advanced data services such as IP VPN Wide Area Networks and Municipal Area Networks, serves many northern communities with mobile cellular, and operates cable television networks in 4 of the largest communities in the North.

4. Moreover, Northwestel is the largest Internet Service Provider in the North, offering broadband Internet to 48 communities with nearly 85,000 people, 74% of the population of the North.

II. Executive Summary

5. A strategy for Canada's digital economy should recognize that in remote northern communities, ICT infrastructure is uneconomic and government financial support or subsidies are required from time to time to support upgrades to existing infrastructure in order to keep ICT services and rates at a reasonably similar level as that in southern communities. This is particularly true in communities served off satellite transport where the cost of transporting each additional communications minute or byte is very costly. Furthermore, the various levels of government should coordinate efforts to ensure that the best results are achieved from the contribution spent.

6. ICT includes various services and technologies including Internet, data, mobile, wireline telephone and broadcast distribution. In the North, in most cases, communications traffic rides on one core network, so government funding programs used to provision new/alternate infrastructures can be counter-productive. Specifically, Government funding of alternative service providers adversely impacts the viability of existing providers by reducing their revenues and thereby creating the need for even more Government subsidies.

7. Government programs that fund ICT infrastructure must coordinate efforts and intentions more closely to ensure that the goal of providing the best services possible is achieved in the most effective and efficient way. This includes avoiding the inefficiencies and harm of funding duplicate uneconomic communications infrastructures. Government programs should acknowledge that in high cost areas where ICT infrastructure is generally uneconomic, supporting duplicate network service providers may not be the best way to provide high-quality affordable services over the long term.

8. Government programs should build on existing infrastructure rather than deploy duplicate infrastructure.

9. In addition to programs that contribute to the building of ICT infrastructure, Governments should provide tax incentives to service providers that build ICT infrastructure in uneconomic areas. Furthermore, various regulatory fees incurred by providing communications services to high cost areas should be reduced or eliminated for high cost serving areas. The Federal Government should undertake a review of all such fees with the objective of eliminating them on services provided to high cost serving areas. Moreover spectrum should be made available at little or no cost for services provided in high cost serving areas.

10. Governments across all communities in the Far North must be early adopters of advanced ICT services if the North is going to implement ICT infrastructure and embrace ICT services on a reasonable and timely basis. Governments are the largest customers of communication services in the North. It is critical that governments act as anchor tenants to the adoption of these services in order to create enough demand for these services to be economical to provide.

11. A strategy for Canada's Digital economy requires northern governments to coordinate their requirements and act as early adopters of ICT applications to make ICT infrastructure reasonably economical to provision to remote communities.

12. However there is a danger that governments will develop their ICT services/networks/skills internally and this will not support the development of ICT services and skills outside the government. Thus, productivity gains that could be derived from such development outside of Government will be lost. Northwestel submits that government should consider outsourcing the skills and service development to private or outside firms that would then leverage this knowledge and skill to sell ICT services to Canadian businesses as well as other governments such as Territorial, Municipal and Aboriginal governments.

13. In conjunction with early adoption, Governments must act as role models and showcase the benefits ICT can bring to the business market.

14. ICT overcomes geographical impediments impacting business in the North, by allowing businesses to reach new markets and access new suppliers in a cost effective way. A strategy for Canada's Digital economy must encourage business to adopt ICT by requiring governments to act as role models of ICT adoption, support national campaigns targeted at business on the use of ICT, and provide tax incentives for business adoption of ICT applications.

15. A strategy for Canada's Digital economy requires primary, secondary and post secondary education programs to encourage the development of a culture of awareness of the value ICT can bring to business and productivity so that a new way of thinking transcends to the business place as graduates bring their new skills to their place of employment.

16. In addition, schools should encourage greater use of ICT applications and devices in everyday learning in schools. Governments and the private sector should coordinate efforts to ensure that students have an opportunity to learn the skills, understand the opportunities and have an opportunity to get further education in ICT. More opportunities for continuing education should be made available for businesses and individuals by providing access to on line training programs (video steaming and interactive applications) and various incentives to support employees who seek training in ICT.

17. Governments should also support programs that would encourage ICT growth in the home. Governments should address a root cause of lack of ICT adoption by supporting programs that increase computer penetration in the home.

18. Finally the Government of Canada should develop better metrics to track the success of ICT adoption in the North including collecting relevant statistics on the North more frequently in order to monitor the success of various programs and private sector investment. The impacts of various programs and the issues preventing ICT adoption and success may be somewhat different in the North than in southern Canada, but a lack of appropriate metrics may prevent the development of an appropriate plan to address these issues.

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III. ICT Plays a Critical Role in the Lives of Northerners

19. Due to harsh climatic conditions combined with the remote characteristics of our communities, the Far North presents many extreme challenges for people living in the region. These conditions emphasize the importance of connectivity to the outside world and the availability of advanced ICT services.

20. ICT services are critical to the supply of healthcare, education and justice in communities in the North. Northwestel's data and video conferencing services provided over satellite, microwave and fibre transport technologies have enabled these services to reach remote communities. Tele-health is particularly important for the availability of health services for northern residents as it reduces geographic barriers faced by people living in remote communities by providing medical diagnosis, therapy and medical training services in a cost effective manner, while reducing requirements to travel.

21. To emphasise the importance of telecom services in the North one just has to consider that 87 of our 96 communities do not have hospitals and the distance to a hospital may be as much as 1500 km by air as it is for Grise Fiord, Nunavut. For many communities the distance often exceeds 500 kms.

22. Educational programs have also benefited from video conferencing and data services that link educational and government institutions with larger institutions in the south. Moreover Tele-justice delivers circuit court, using Justices of the Peace and video-conferencing. It also provides remote residents with access to legal support with video-conferencing and web-casts.

23. The North is also unique for its diverse population. Over 50% of the Far North's people and the vast majority of its communities are Aboriginal. In Northwestel's serving area there are at least 13 distinct Aboriginal groups and languages. ICT will continue to play an important and increasing role in preserving cultural identity. ICT will support community control and delivery of services by Aboriginal governments and at the same time play an important conduit to maintaining and renewing local culture and language development. ICT adoption will provide greater opportunities for Aboriginal people to get the education and health care services they require with the option to remain in their communities, thus promoting retention of culture.

24. Advancing the development and connectivity of northern communities by promoting ICT development will play an important part in protecting Canadian sovereignty in the North.

25. Finally, ICT overcomes geographical impediments impacting businesses in the North, by allowing business to reach new markets and access new suppliers a cost effective way.

26. Although significant improvements have been made to ICT infrastructure and the adoption of ICT applications, in many communities these services are lagging behind the current wave of technology sophistication that it is being deployed in the south. For example, Tele-health circuits in northern communities are often limited to 1.5 Mbps, thus severely limiting use of applications. As such, most patients continue to need treatment in southern hospitals. Tele-health as implemented in the North at this time is leading to improved diagnosis but most treatment requires the patient to make costly trips to the south to cities such as Vancouver, Edmonton, Winnipeg or Ottawa.

27. If the North is to keep pace with southern Canada in terms of ICT services, Canada's strategy for the digital economy must acknowledge the importance of ICT to the North and focus on issues that have particular relevance to the North – issues that have prevented adoption of ICT in the North.

28. A Strategy for Canada's Digital Economy should recognize the relative importance of advanced ICT infrastructure and applications for the Far North.

IV. High Cost Environment for Communications Infrastructure

29. The Far North is unique for its extreme climate, vast distances between communities, extremely low population density, and distinct cultural diversity. 78% of Northwestel's communities have less than 500 telephone lines. Even our two largest centres are small relative to southern Canada's communities as both Whitehorse and Yellowknife have less than 45,000 people combined. Forty-three of Northwestel's communities rely on high cost satellite to transport all communications traffic outside those communities. In addition forty-six of our communities are accessed by air only.

30. In addition, providing quality ICT services in the North requires greater investment on a per subscriber line basis than for the South. Northwestel's historical cumulative telecommunications investment per subscriber line is about 250% higher than in the south.1

31. Northwestel's satellite communities are illustrative of the high costs to provision communications services to the North. In addition to the high annual costs of satellite transport for each toll minute or data packet, regardless of the size of a community, all satellite communities require minimum equipment such as; a digital switch, RF equipment, required software, internet equipment, satellite receivers (many as large as 9 meters), buildings and HVAC Power equipment. Arctic Bay, Nunavut, for example, is 900 KM by air from Iqaluit and has 250 telephone lines and a population of 690. Northwestel's capital investment in this community is $2.3 Million or $9,240 per subscriber line.

32. In addition to the large distances between communities and low population density, another major factor that results in high capital cost per access is due to additional infrastructure Northwestel must build in order to serve these remote communities. For example, Northwestel must generate its own power at 95 of 139 sites because no commercial power is available at these sites. To the best of our knowledge, the Company is required to generate more of its own power than all other Telecommunications Service Providers in Canada. Many of these sites are helicopter only access and fuelling these sites requires diesel fuel to be transported by helicopter at an average cost of $50K per year per site. A typical remote helicopter Microwave transit site is Parsons, NWT. Capital invested at this site required to generate our own power is over $1M. Moreover the Company spends about $76K in annual operating costs at this site, which includes fuel and maintenance trips required to support the power generating facilities at this remote microwave site.

33. A strategy for Canada's digital economy should incorporate funding programs to assist infrastructure providers who incur the high cost of provisioning ICT services in the Far North.

V. Advancements in ICT Infrastructure in the Far North

34. Northwestel submits that there have been significant improvements in ICT infrastructure in recent years, most of these have been made with direct contributions or subsidies from various government programs. These investments have been made across the entire array of ICT infrastructure including Internet, data, wireline telephone, transport facilities, mobile cellular and broadcast distribution.

35. Broadband Internet was first provisioned by Northwestel in the major centres of northern Canada in the late 1990's. In 2001, Northwestel provisioned Internet with download speeds at a minimum of 1.5 Mbps to most Yukon communities through the Connect Yukon program which was supported by a significant contribution from the Yukon government. The Yukon government also acted as an anchor tenant to ensure that the investment was economically feasible. Since 2005, the federal government has provided over $70 million in funding to several ISP's to provision IP networks to approximately 60 communities throughout the Far North.

36. Funding programs have included Broadband for Rural and Northern Development (BRAND), the National Satellite Initiative, Infrastructure Canada, and most recently the Broadband Canada: Connecting Rural Canadians program. Northwestel also made its own independent corporate decision to privately finance the provision of broadband Internet services to approximately 30 communities in the North.

37. At this time, there are 90 of 96 communities in the North with a total population of about 115,000 (99% of the North's population) that have access to Broadband Internet with minimum download speeds of 786 kbps. In addition, there are 46 communities with a total 77,250 people (67% of the North's population) that currently have access to broadband Internet with speeds at a minimum of 1.5 Mbps download, as shown in Attachment 1. Based on Industry Canada's recently announced Canada Broadband funding, this number will be increased to 77 communities with 112,225 people or 97% of the North's population.

38. Northwestel has upgraded its cable broadcasting facilities to support high definition TV, video on demand and other two way interactive services.

39. Northwestel has also made significant investments in fibre transport. Northwestel has fibre transport to the south from Whitehorse, Yukon through northern British Columbia and most of the route from Yellowknife to Edmonton. Most services run on one network so these investments are benefiting all services including data, cellular, wireline Internet and broadcast distribution.

40. This is enabling Northwestel to deliver large bandwidth circuits, such as Wide Area Virtual Private Networks with speeds up to 100 Mbps, to its larger communities in the Northwest Territories, the Yukon and British Columbia. This is also enabling the roll-out of new cellular HSPA+ 3G cellular services capable of providing mobile data and video applications. Northwestel has provisioned approximately 4000 KM of transport fibre and will be adding additional fibre in the near future.

41. Furthermore, 77% of the population and 35 communities now have access to mobile cellular services, although a majority of these communities have 2G technology in place. In 17 communities in the Yukon, cellular service was provisioned by Northwestel in partnership with the Champagne Asihinik First nation through a project, funded in part through a contribution by the Yukon government. Where economically viable, cellular service was provisioned to the remaining northern communities by private companies including Bell Mobility, Ice Wireless, and Northwestel (Latitude Wireless).

42. Rather than funding duplicate infrastructure, the strategy for Canada's Digital Economy should build on the infrastructure investments that have already been made towards ICT in Canada's Far North.

VI. Government Contribution Towards Investment in ICT Infrastructure in the Far North

43. A strategy for Canada's digital economy should recognize that the Far North is a high cost environment with limited demand and as such, much of the investment in communications infrastructure is uneconomic. This is particularly true in communities served off satellite transport where the cost of transporting each additional communications minute or byte is very costly. The high cost of transport, given the limited market size will constrain the ability of service providers to expand speeds and or bandwidth of various services and keep rates affordable.

44. For ICT infrastructure in the North to reasonably keep pace with southern communities, government support of ICT services will require ongoing contribution towards infrastructure. Moreover, there is a need for governments to coordinate programs to ensure that subsides that support ICT infrastructure are provided to remote communities in the most efficient and sustainable manner.

45. This should come as no surprise given the level of government contribution in the past across all sectors of the communication environment including the projects explained above to expand IP and cellular infrastructure. Another example is the CRTC's Service Improvement Fund from 2001 to 2005 totalling $85.3M, to support wireline service extensions, digital switching upgrades, dial up internet, introduction of calling features to some communities and transport and toll network upgrades.

46. Going forward, most communities that have mobile cellular service in the North have 2G technology deployed. This service provides Internet access between 50 and 100 kbps, and does not enable many applications that are commonly used in the south to operate smoothly. Please see Attachment 1 for a list of communities in the North that have 2G and 3G technology. Many applications now commonly used on mobile cellular networks in the south require Internet speeds far higher than what is currently available in the North. 3G technology provides far greater speeds and bandwidth to support various multimedia large bandwidth applications and applications which require low jitter and delay such as video conferencing, streaming music, satellite radio, faster file downloads, and multi player games.

47. It is unlikely that provisioning 3G service to most northern communities will ever be economically viable. An investment to upgrade communities that have 2G cellular service to 3G will likely require First Nation, Territorial, and/ or Federal Government support. A successful model for service provisioning that should be considered would be either the Connect Yukon Project, or the Yukon Cellular Project, as described above.

48. In addition, programs should consider redundancy to be built into the existing communications infrastructure in the Far North. At this time the North is primarily served by a single network consisting of fibre optic, microwave and satellite routes. As greater use and reliance is made of the existing infrastructure for ICT, outages will have a more significant impact in the absence of redundancy. In the South redundancy is a normal course of building services, whereas, it is not in the North due to cost.

49. Another challenge going forward will be the continued roll out of higher data speeds and bandwidth to meet the growing needs of ICT in remote communities that are served by high cost satellite or low capacity microwave transport.

50. As the North remains a high cost serving area where the revenues generated by services at reasonable and affordable rates are not sufficient to cover the cost of building, maintaining and operating the network that provisions ICT, it should be anticipated that future government contributions are required to support infrastructure investments for speeds and bandwidth offerings to keep pace with the south.

51. Moreover, as explained above, ICT includes various services over various technologies including Internet, data, mobile, wireline telephone and broadcast distribution. In the North, in most cases, everything rides on one core network. Government programs used to provision competitive duplicate infrastructure can adversely impact other ICT services by reducing economies of scope and scale and thus reducing revenues that are needed to provision these services.

52. By subsidizing duplicate infrastructure in high cost serving areas the Government reduces efficiencies and causes revenue disruption that can result in the loss of funds that the incumbent service provider uses to provide basic telephone service. This in turn will require some form of new source of subsidization to sustain the existing network.

53. The federal government through various programs has provided approximately $60 million in direct funding, to an alternate provider, to build Internet network facilities along with subsidised transport over satellite in the NWT and Nunavut. These federal programs have resulted in broadband (256kbps upload / 768kbps download or higher) being available to the majority of northern communities, however, the network is not sustainable without further funding. This funding of an alternate duplicate network in a high cost region, that is challenging for one provider to operate let alone two, has resulted in revenue erosion on Northwestel's network that is necessary to provision other ICT services including data services and voice services. Government programs cannot afford nor sustain duplicate infrastructure in high cost low density regions.

54. To further illustrate, in Tuktoyaktuk, NWT, a community with 982 people, and 275 households, broadband Internet was first provided by AirWare (SSI Micro) with service at speeds up to 768 kbps and received funding to do so under the BRAND program. As customers demanded a higher quality of service, Northwestel deployed 1.5 Mbps service into the community. Under the Broadband Canada: Connecting Rural Canadians program consideration is being given to fund a third provider to serve this community of 275 households. Northwestel does not believe this is the most efficient and effective way to provide Internet in Tuktoyaktuk. If the money had been awarded to one provider, the long run result may be higher grades of service with more advanced speeds and bandwidth availability.

55. Government programs that fund ICT infrastructure must coordinate efforts more closely to ensure that the best broadband Internet services possible are provided in the most efficient and effective way possible. This includes avoiding the inefficiencies and harm generated by Government subsidizing the creation of duplicate, uneconomic infrastructures and services. In high cost areas where subsidization is required, only one core network should be built.

56. The Federal Government should also consider tax incentives that focus on large scale capital investment for telecom providers that provide ICT infrastructure in uneconomic areas. Currently tax incentives are largely geared towards research and development through SR&ED tax credits which does little to incent Telecom Service Providers (TSPs) to provision service in remote high cost communities.

57. The Federal Government should consider increasing the capital cost allowance on ICT infrastructure investments or alternatively provide investment tax credits based on capital invested in high cost serving areas.

58. Various regulatory fees incurred by those providing ICT services in remote communities should also be eliminated because they act as an additional deterrent to providing service in uneconomic areas. For example, fees charged to pay for the oper ation of the CRTC, the Canadian Numbering Association, the Canadian Portable Contribution Consortium, and the Commission for Complaints for Telecommunications Services along with radio spectrum licensing fees take away funds that could otherwise be invested in telecom infrastructure. The Federal Government should undertake a review of all such fees with the objective of eliminating them on services provided to high cost serving areas.

59. Finally for service providers serving remote communities, government should ensure the continued availability of spectrum at low or no cost. Spectrum costs have increased dramatically in the most recent spectrum auctions, and this will act as a deterrent to invest in already uneconomic areas.

60. A strategy for Canada's digital economy should recognize that in the remote high cost communities of the Far North, providing ICT infrastructure is uneconomic and government contribution or subsidies are required from time to time to support upgrades to existing infrastructure in order to keep ICT services at a reasonably similar level and price as that available in southern communities. In addition, when subsidy programs are applied, governments should coordinate efforts between programs and ensure that the best results are achieved at the lowest possible cost. Government programs should build on existing infrastructure rather than deploying duplicate uneconomic infrastructure.

61. In addition to programs that contribute to the building of ICT infrastructure, Governments should provide tax incentives to service providers that build ICT infrastructure in uneconomic areas.

Furthermore, various regulatory fees incurred by providing communications services to high cost areas should be reduced or eliminated for high cost serving areas. The Federal Government should undertake a review of all such fees with the objective of eliminating them on services provided to high cost serving areas. Moreover spectrum should be made available at little or no cost for services provided in high cost serving areas.

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VII. Governments as Anchor Tenants for ICT Services

62. Government in the Far North represents a much larger percentage of the economy, including employment, than in southern communities. This includes all levels of government: Territorial, Federal and First Nations. Governments are also the largest customers of telecom services in the North, so it is critical that they act as model ICT users in order to provide sufficient demand for these services to be provided on a viable, long-term basis.

63. While governments have been utilizing a number of important ICT services in the largest communities in the North, the demand has not materialized in most of the smaller communities.

64. The World Economic Forum ranks the Canadian government 33rd for ICT prioritization and 27th in the world for ICT readiness relative to governments in other countries.

65. Governments have made choices not to expand ICT in the North's smaller communities. This may be in part due to the cost of getting access to network bandwidth; not having enough ICT trained staff, and not having enough demand for government services in small communities.

66. As a supplier of ICT services, it is difficult for Northwestel to provision large bandwidth services at reasonable prices to many smaller remote communities when demand is not present. If various governments and government agencies coordinated their efforts, enough demand might be generated to make service provisioning more economical in a number of smaller communities.

67. In this case, governments must take an active role to coordinate demand among various government departments and services including schools and quasi-government agencies to develop demand for ICT services.

68. For example, if a northern college campus wants to lease large data circuits to run applications with southern universities, these services may not be available or may not be affordable for that particular customer. If various government departments aggregated their demand to purchase a large volume of bandwidth, however, larger bandwidth services could become economic for smaller users.

69. To accomplish this governments will need to work together to form a combined vision of future telecom needs from all levels of governments (e.g. functionality they require to provide their services to residents including groups such as Territorial governments, DND, Health Canada, Industry Canada, INAC, Public Works etc) that can be used to inform what this single network should look like.

70. Promoting internal use of video conferencing and cloud computing would generate greater demand for ICT facilities and would make government more efficient in remote communities. Tele-health, Tele-education and Tele-Justice should all adopt minimum level of service requirements that would require, for example, a minimum of 10 Mbps circuits to provision modern applications to improve and enhance services to remote communities such as greater medical diagnostic capability and advanced education.

71. Furthermore, Governments can generate far greater demand for ICT by promoting greater public use of online services such as for permit applications, land titles and corporate searches.

72. However, there is a danger that Governments will develop their ICT services/networks/skills internally and this will not support the development of ICT services and skills outside the government. Northwestel submits that government should consider outsourcing the skills and service development to private firms that would then leverage this work to develop skills and expertise to sell ICT services and knowledge to Canadian businesses as well as other governments such as Territorial, Municipal and Aboriginal governments.

73. A strategy for Canada's Digital economy requires northern governments to coordinate their ICT requirements and act as early adopters in ICT applications to make ICT infrastructure more economic to provision to remote communities.

VIII. Northern Governments Must Showcase the Benefits of ICT and Support a Greater Adoption of ICT by Businesses

74. In addition to being an anchor tenant and contributing towards infrastructure to provision ICT, if the North is going to adopt ICT and benefit from productivity gains, the small and medium business sector must adopt ICT. To accomplish this, governments will need to showcase what ICT can do for the small and medium business markets in the North. As the major supplier of ICT infrastructure in the North, Northwestel submits that two principle reasons why the business sector is not adopting ICT is because of a lack of awareness about the benefits that can be derived from ICT and the lack of ICT skilled workers.

75. First, Government can role model the benefits by being early adopters and using ICT applications that promote efficiencies for business. For example, online applications for acquiring permits, on line bill payments, real time on line web seminars and training and acquiring real time information through web conferencing with government agencies about various services and requirements such as revenue Canada.

76. Second, Government can showcase the benefits that ICT can bring to business by conducting targeted campaigns to small and medium business on the benefits of ICT applications such as on-line billing and ordering, on line supply management, video conferencing to reduce travel, web conferencing, on line interactive chat rooms and how ICT an be used to collect information to better understand customer needs.

77. These campaigns should be coordinated between various governments and the local Chamber of Commerce in each area to have the most effective reach.

78. The Government can also provide tax incentives for business to adopt ICT applications to improve productivity.

79. ICT overcomes geographical impediments impacting business in the far North, by allowing businesses to reach new markets and access new suppliers in a cost effective way. The North's population is less than 116,000 over 96 communities, resulting in an extremely small market size. If businesses desire to grow they must sell goods or services nationally or internationally. In addition, access to a variety of suppliers locally can be limited. ICT provides substantial opportunities for northern businesses to find additional markets, distributors and suppliers. In addition, ICT can support access to skilled labour in other markets that can provide valuable knowledge towards provisioning new services or new technologies etc, which will enable business to be more effective.

80. A strategy for Canada's Digital economy must encourage business to adopt ICT by requiring governments to act as role models of ICT adoption, support national campaigns targeted at business on the use of ICT, and provide tax incentives for business adoption of ICT applications.

IX. Coordinate efforts to Create a New Culture of Awareness and Increase ICT Skilled Labour in the North

81. In addition to showcasing the benefits of ICT to businesses, the education system (including primary, secondary and post secondary institutions) should be encouraging the development of a culture of awareness not only on the importance of ICT in the student's lives but the value it can bring to business and productivity so that a new way of thinking transcends to the business place as graduates bring their knowledge and skills to their place of employment. In many schools, cellular mobile use, personal laptop computers and notebooks, and social media like chat rooms are discouraged. In fact, a new way of education should find a way to adopt these methods into a collaborative learning process.

82. Governments and business can support the new culture by providing information on career opportunities in ICT fields to be made available in the classroom. Governments should encourage employers to take a role in promoting the diffusion of knowledge in the secondary school level about the application of ICT and potential employment opportunities in these fields. Moreover, while ICT infrastructure should continue to be added into the classroom, greater use of existing applications and infrastructure should be encouraged to support a culture that embraces ICT. For example, a video chat session could be established with a classroom in South Africa when students are learning about the history of South Africa. Students could be involved in a live twitter discussion in the class room during events occurring in other parts of the world like the demonstrations in Iran. ICT use is integrated into the everyday lives of Canadian youth, but it has not yet become a fundamental part of school curricula and integrated into each subject from History to Math. Schools should leverage ICT within every subject matter. For example, various game playing applications and personal devices could be used for students to learn math or science at their own pace. As summarised by the Information Technology Association of Canada (ITAC),

"Despite the presence of computers in many classrooms, and the role that academics have played in developing ICT innovations, education is still wide open to technological revolution. In summarizing findings by the Institute of Research on Learning Technology Visions, the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation (ITIF) report "Digital Quality of Life" concluded: "Using computer technology for 15 minutes a day is a start, but the real power of IT will be unleashed only when we begin to fundamentally rethink the entire learning process in a way that maximizes its potential." A vision for the future includes expanding the traditional pedagogical approach to take advantage of the range of possibilities offered by ICT, including applications yet to be developed. Among the types of applications that have met with success are those related to some aspect of electronic gaming. These types of play-based, experiential learning programs also recognize the existence of multiple styles and speeds of learning."2

83. Opportunities for continuing education are also important for businesses of all sizes to train existing employees. Business should have access to Federal Government on line training programs (video steaming and interactive applications) to train workers on various ICT practices. For more advanced training, government could provide businesses with various incentives to support educational leave for employees. Employment Insurance programs should also provide additional support to continuing education for workers who seek training in ICT.

84. A strategy for Canada's Digital economy requires primary, secondary and post secondary education institutions to encourage the development of a culture of awareness of the value ICT can bring to business so that a new way of thinking transcends to the business place as graduates bring their knowledge and skills to their place of employment. In addition schools should encourage greater use of ICT applications and devices in everyday learning in schools. Governments and the private sector should coordinate efforts to ensure that students have an opportunity to learn the skills, understand the opportunities and have an opportunity to get further education in ICT. More Opportunities for continuing education should be made available for businesses and individuals by providing access to on line training programs (video steaming and interactive applications) and various incentives to support educational leave for employees and support for continuing education for workers who seek training in ICT.

X. Addressing the ICT Skills Shortage in the Far North

85. Government must take a lead role in addressing the workforce ICT skills shortage in the North. The North has always had to overcome the issue of training, attracting and keeping skilled workers, largely due to the isolated and harsh environment. In addition, high turnover among workers in the North has always been an issue employers have had to deal with and none more important than trying to keep skilled ICT workers who are in demand across the country and internationally.3 As one of the largest northern employers of ICT skilled labour, Northwestel has found it difficult to attract and retain labour with those skills to the North.

86. One way to address this issue is to ensure that residents of the North who are more likely to remain in the territories have the opportunity to receive ICT training. Local and federal governments must coordinate efforts with post secondary institutions in the territories to train local residents in ICT skills.

87. The private sector that use ICT skilled labour can also play a role in assisting local ICT education by supporting local programs as well as hiring graduates from local programs. For example, Northwestel has had success meeting its quality of service standards by using a community technician program, a program that recruits local residents in remote communities and provides them with training to be a telecommunications technician. Government should coordinate support among the private sector for local training programs which might also include encouraging local businesses to provide grants and bursaries for northern residents to receive ICT training.

88. In addition the government could provide tax incentives for workers who reside in the North and have ICT skills. For example the Northern residents' deduction could be expended to include additional deductions for labour working in recognized ICT jobs or increase the moving allowance for those moving to the North.

89. A strategy for Canada's digital economy should recognize the challenges faced in the Far North to attract ICT skilled labour and coordinate efforts with various governments, local business and schools to train local residents with ICT skills, provide tax incentive to attract ICT workers, and encourage businesses to be actively involved in communities to promote ICT as a career interest.

XI. Government Should Focus Attention on Supporting Demand for ICT in Households

90. Government programs should also support programs that would encourage ICT growth at home. Governments could address a root cause of lack of ICT adoption by supporting programs to increase computer penetration and internet usage in the home, for example, in Nunavut only 57% of households have a home computer in comparison to a national average of 78.4%.4

91. Government programs to expand the number of computers in northern homes would be a positive initiative towards encouraging ICT use in the North, particularly in the Eastern Arctic where the number of households with computers continues to significantly lag behind southern Canada as illustrated above.

92. Government programs that help fund the purchase of computers would likely stimulate demand and help improve access to the digital economy for northern residents. This is particularly important for northern residents due to the distance and poor accessibility to major centres from our remote communities and the needs/requirements to access advanced educational services and other social services.

93. Government should also focus its attention on educating residents to utilize applications that adopt ICT and increase efficiencies of government service delivery, for example targeting campaigns to encourage using on line government services. Once again, for the success of these campaigns to be fully realized, governments should coordinate their efforts with business to encourage customers to use on line options and bill payment methods. For example, customers choosing to receive bills and pay bills on line, as well as, receive information or change services on an account on line can lead to significant cost savings and efficiency gains as well as being friendlier on the environment.

94. A strategy for Canada's digital economy should support Government programs that would encourage ICT growth in the home. Governments could address a root cause of lack of ICT adoption by increasing computer penetration in the home. Furthermore, the government should develop national campaigns to encourage using on line government and business services.

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XII. Government of Canada Should Devleop Better Metrics on ICT Adoption in the North and Collect Them More Frequently

95. Finally, the Government of Canada should develop better metrics to track the success of ICT adoption in the North including collecting relevant statistics on the North more frequently in order to monitor the success of various programs and private sector investment. The impacts of various programs and the issues preventing ICT adoption and success may be somewhat different in the North than in southern Canada but a lack of appropriate statistics may prevent development of an appropriate plan to address these issues.

96. For example the latest available statistics from Statistics Canada on computer adoption in the home and Internet penetration in the North is from 2007. Statistics on the Far North are limited and are not collected every year.

97. To measure availability and adoption of ICT in the North, the government should collect relevant statistics on an annual basis for: availability of service bandwidth, bandwidth used, down load speed levels, metrics on the adoption of various applications, the number of computers in the home, the number of people with cellular mobile phones, metrics on the degree to which residents are using on line service options such as bill payments and conducting customer service contact. Various surveys are conducted by Stats Canada such as available at the following link: http://www.statcan.gc.ca/dailyquotidien/061101/dq061101a-eng.htm. These surveys should be conducted specifically for the North.

98. In addition, metrics regarding the degree of ICT adoption and types of applications adopted in Canadian schools, for example to what degree are developmental on line games, experiential learning programs and other multimedia applications utilized in the classroom.

99. A strategy for Canada's digital economy should determine the success of ICT adoption in the North. Relevant statistics should be collected and published at least on an annual basis so that better understanding of the success of various programs and level of adoption of ICT can be derived.

100. Thank you for the opportunity to provide our thoughts in this important consultation. Northwestel looks forward to the opportunity to work with governments in evolving the digital economy in northern Canada.

Broadband Internet Availability in Northwestel's Serving Territory
Territory Community Population Cellular Service Available NWTel Current High speed Internet Competitor Present and Download Speeds Available (ie 1.5Mbps or 768 Kbps ) Communities Where Northwestel Will Put in High Speed at 1.5 Mbps or Higher Due to Broadband Canada Program Communities Where Competitor Will Put in High Speed at 1.5 MBps or Higher Due to Broadband Canada Program

Note 1: Population statistics for the Yukon, NWT, NU, and BC are taken from the following sources respectively: http://www.eco.gov.yk.ca/stats/pdf/yukon_facts_2010.pdf, http://www.stats.gov.nt.ca/population/population-estimates/index.otp, http://www.gov.nu.ca/eia/stats/Popest/Population/Population%20estimates%20Report,%20July%201,%202009.pdf, Stats Canada Community Profiles

Note 2: NetKaster Broadband Internet servcies are generally available across the North. Barrett Xplornet satellite broadband has sales offices in Fort Nelson, Hay River and Yellowknife.

YT Beaver Creek 97 2G 1.5 Mbps download or higher      
YT Burwash Landing 105 2G 1.5 Mbps download or higher      
YT Carcross 436 2G 1.5 Mbps download or higher      
YT Carmacks 472 2G 1.5 Mbps download or higher      
YT Champagne N/A    1.5 Mbps download or higher      
YT Dawson City 1923 2G 1.5 Mbps download or higher      
YT Destruction Bay 48 2G 1.5 Mbps download or higher      
YT Elsa 20   1.5 Mbps download or higher      
YT Faro 395 2G 1.5 Mbps download or higher      
YT Haines Junction 848 2G 1.5 Mbps download or higher      
YT Judas Creek (Marsh Lake) 422 2G 1.5 Mbps download or higher      
YT Keno 20   1.5 Mbps download or higher      
YT Mayo 466 2G 1.5 Mbps download or higher      
YT Old Crow 251 2G Above 768 kbps but below 1.5 Mbps      
YT Pelly Crossing 323 2G 1.5 Mbps download or higher      
YT Ross River 369 2G 1.5 Mbps download or higher      
YT Stewart Crossing N/A    1.5 Mbps download or higher      
YT Swift River 15   1.5 Mbps download or higher      
YT Tagish 221 2G 1.5 Mbps download or higher      
YT Teslin 458 2G 1.5 Mbps download or higher      
YT Watson Lake 1594 2G 1.5 Mbps download or higher      
YT Whitehorse 25403 3G 1.5 Mbps download or higher      
NU Arctic Bay 728     SSI Micro & Qiniq 768 Kbps   Northern Broadband LTD (SSI Micro)
NU Arviat 2254 2G   SSI Micro & Qiniq 768 Kbps   Northern Broadband LTD (SSI Micro)
NU Baker Lake 1906 2G   SSI Micro & Qiniq 768 Kbps   Northern Broadband LTD (SSI Micro)
NU Cambridge Bay 1601 2G   SSI Micro & Qiniq 768 Kbps   Northern Broadband LTD (SSI Micro)
NU Cape Dorset 1366     SSI Micro & Qiniq 768 Kbps   Northern Broadband LTD (SSI Micro)
NU Chesterfield Inlet 366     SSI Micro & Qiniq 768 Kbps   Northern Broadband LTD (SSI Micro)
NU Clyde River 895     SSI Micro & Qiniq 768 Kbps   Northern Broadband LTD (SSI Micro)
NU Coral Harbour 838     SSI Micro & Qiniq 768 Kbps   Northern Broadband LTD (SSI Micro)
NU Gjoa Haven 1121     SSI Micro & Qiniq 768 Kbps   Northern Broadband LTD (SSI Micro)
NU Grise Fiord 150     SSI Micro & Qiniq 768 Kbps   Northern Broadband LTD (SSI Micro)
NU Hall Beach 702     SSI Micro & Qiniq 768 Kbps   Northern Broadband LTD (SSI Micro)
NU Igloolik 1639     SSI Micro & Qiniq 768 Kbps   Northern Broadband LTD (SSI Micro)
NU Iqaluit 6832 2G Above 768 kbps but below 1.5 Mbps SSI Micro & Qiniq 768 Kbps   Northern Broadband LTD (SSI Micro)
NU Kimmirut 444     SSI Micro & Qiniq 768 Kbps   Northern Broadband LTD (SSI Micro)
NU Kugaaruk 725 &n bsp;   SSI Micro & Qiniq 768 Kbps   Northern Broadband LTD (SSI Micro)
NU Kugluktuk 1396 2G   SSI Micro & Qiniq 768 Kbps   Northern Broadband LTD (SSI Micro)
NU Pangnirtung 1443     SSI Micro & Qiniq 768 Kbps   Northern Broadband LTD (SSI Micro)
NU Pond Inlet 1424     SSI Micro & Qiniq 768 Kbps   Northern Broadband LTD (SSI Micro)
NU Qikiqtarjuag 521     SSI Micro & Qiniq 768 Kbps   Northern Broadband LTD (SSI Micro)
NU Rankin Inlet 2651 2G   SSI Micro & Qiniq 768 Kbps   Northern Broadband LTD (SSI Micro)
NU Repulse Bay 844     SSI Micro & Qiniq 768 Kbps   Northern Broadband LTD (SSI Micro)
NU Resolute 250     SSI Micro & Qiniq 768 Kbps   Northern Broadband LTD (SSI Micro)
NU Sanikiluaq 794     SSI Micro & Qiniq 768 Kbps   Northern Broadband LTD (SSI Micro)
NU Taloyoak 875     SSI Micro & Qiniq 768 Kbps   Northern Broadband LTD (SSI Micro)
NU Whale Cove 388     SSI Micro & Qiniq 768 Kbps   Northern Broadband LTD (SSI Micro)
NT Aklavik 645   1.5 Mbps download or higher SSI Micro & Airware 768 Kbps    
NT Colville Lake 147       In discussion with Industry Canada  
NT Deline 565         OmniGlobe
NT Detah 257          
NT Edzo See Rae   1.5 Mbps download or higher SSI Micro & Airware 768 Kbps Northwestel (DSL 1.5 Mbps or higher)  
NT Ekati N/A   1.5 Mbps download or higher      
NT Enterprise 108   1.5 Mbps download or higher      
NT Fort Good Hope 567       In discussion with Industry Canada  
NT Fort Liard 572 3G 1.5 Mbps download or higher      
NT Fort McPherson 791   1.5 Mbps download or higher      
NT Fort Providence 759   1.5 Mbps download or higher      
NT Fort Resolution 506   1.5 Mbps download or higher      
NT Fort Simpson 1283 2G 1.5 Mbps download or higher SSI Micro & Airware 768 Kbps    
NT Fort Smith 2466 3G 1.5 Mbps download or higher SSI Micro & Airware 768 Kbps    
NT Hay River 3724 3G 1.5 Mbps download or higher SSI Micro & Airware 768 Kbps    
NT Holman (Ulukhaktok) 451     SSI Micro & Airware 768 Kbps In discussion with Industry Canada  
NT Inuvik 3586 2G 1.5 Mbps download or higher SSI Micro & Airware 768 Kbps    
NT Jean Marie River 76     SSI Micro & Airware 768 Kbps In discussion with Industry Canada  
NT Kakisa 55     SSI Micro & Airware 768 Kbps In discussion with Industry Canada  
NT Lutselk'e 312     SSI Micro & Airware 768 Kbps In discussion with Industry Canada  
NT Nahanni Butte 120     SSI Micro & Airware 768 Kbps In discussion with Industry Canada  
NT Norman Wells 800 2G 1.5 Mbps download or higher SSI Micro & Airware 768 Kbps    
NT Paulatuk 311     SSI Micro & Airware 768 Kbps In discussion with Industry Canada  
NT Rae Edzo Behchoko 2026   1.5 Mbps download or higher SSI Micro & Airware 768 Kbps    
NT Rae Lakes (Gameti) 295     SSI Micro & Airware 768 Kbps In discussion with Industry Canada  
NT Sachs Harbour 136     SSI Micro & Airware 768 Kbps In discussion with Industry Canada  
NT Trout Lake 106     SSI Micro & Airware 768 Kbps In discussion with Industry Canada  
NT Tsiigehtchic 136     SSI Micro & Airware 768 Kbps Northwestel (DSL 1.5 Mbps or higher)  
NT Tuktoyaktuk 929 2G 1.5 Mbps download or higher SSI Micro & Airware 768 Kbps   OmniGlobe
NT Tulita 566     SSI Micro & Airware 768 Kbps Northwestel (DSL 1.5 Mbps or higher)  
NT Wekweti 137     SSI Micro & Airware 768 Kbps In discussion with Industry Canada  
NT Wha Ti 497     SSI Micro & Airware 768 Kbps   OmniGlobe
NT Wrigley 113     SSI Micro & Airware 768 Kbps In discussion with Industry Canada  
NT Yellowknife 19711 3G 1.5 Mbps download or higher SSI Micro 1.5 Mbps download or higher    
BC Blueberry 530 3G 1.5 Mbps download or higher      
BC Bob Quinn Lake 30          
BC Dease Lake 574   1.5 Mbps download or higher      
BC Fort Nelson 4514 3G 1.5 Mbps download or higher      
BC Fort Ware 239          
BC Good Hope Lake 32          
BC Iskut 335   Northwestel (DSL 1.5 Mbps or higher)      
BC Lower Post 113   1.5 Mbps download or higher      
BC Mould Creek 23          
BC Muncho Lake 109   1.5 Mbps download or higher      
BC Prophet River 86 3G 1.5 Mbps download or higher      
BC Telegraph Creek 91       Northwestel (DSL 1.5 Mbps or higher)  
BC Toad River 109   1.5 Mbps download or higher      
BC Wonowon 139 3G 1.5 Mbps download or higher      
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Notes en bas de page

  1. 1 Northwestel Initial Submission Telecom Notice of Consultation CRTC 2010-43 April 26, 2010. (retour à la référence en note de bas de page 1)
  2. 2 ITAC, Upping Our Game, A National ICT Strategy for Canada, 2009, Page 6. (retour à la référence en note de bas de page 2)
  3. 3 http://www.assembly.nu.ca/english/debates/2nd_assembly/4th_session/Hansard_20080305.pdf
    And http://www.eco.gov.yk.ca/stats/pdf/migration2008.pdf (retour à la référence en note de bas de page 3)
  4. 4 Source: http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/62-202-x/2007000/tablesectlist-listetableauxsect-eng.htm. 2007 data is used as more current data is not available for the territories of Canada. (retour à la référence en note de bas de page 4)

Si vous ne pouvez pas accéder au document qui suit, veuillez communiquer avec la personne ci-dessous afin de l’obtenir dans le format approprié.

Guylaine Verner
Industrie Canada | Industry Canada
300, rue Slater, Ottawa ON K1A 0C8 | 300 Slater Street, Ottawa ON K1A 0C8
Guylaine.Verner@ic.gc.ca
Téléphone | Telephone 613-990-6456
Télécopieur | Facsimile 613-952-2718
Téléimprimeur | Teletypewriter 1-866-694-8389


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