$123.9 million additional funding announced for high-speed internet in Arctic Quebec

Kuujjuaq, a community in Nunavik, the Inuit region of northern Quebec. $29.1 million of the money announced Wednesday will go towards building a fibre optic transmission network between here and a community further south that would allow 1,119 households in Kuujjuaq to access high-speed internet. (Eilís Quinn/Eye on the Arctic)

An additional $123.9 million for better internet service in Nunavik, the Inuit region of Arctic Quebec, was announced on Wednesday, by the Quebec, federal and Kativik Regional Government (KRG).

The money is on top of the approximate $125 million previously announced since 2018.

” Access to high-speed internet is no longer just a luxury item for Canadians living in the large rural areas, this is an essential service for everyone, including Nunavimmiut [people from Nunavik],” Lucy Kumarluk, KRG vice-president said at a virtual news conference. 

“The demand for digital services is rapidly increasing and high-speed internet access has become vital to the success of individuals and communities.”

Kumarluk was joined by Quebec government ministers and a representative of Tamaani Internet, the internet provider in Nunavik, for the announcement. 

Among the monies announced by different levels of government, include:

  • $79.9 million to extend the submarine fibre optic network allowing the communities of AkulivikIvujivikSalluit and Kangiqsujuaq to get high-speed internet access
  • $29.1 million to build a fibre optic transmission network between Kawawachikamach, a community near Schefferville, Quebec, and Kuujjuaq in Nunavik, that would allow 1,119 households in Kuujjuaq to access high-speed internet
  • $5.9 million to renew the satellite transmission network in Nunavik

Pandemic impacts

The majority of internet across Canada’s Arctic is satellite. Anything from heavy rain to blizzards can interrupt service. Download times can be slow, with big files sometimes impossible. Over the last decade, the lack of connectivity has increasingly been flagged as a major impediment to everything from business development and education in the North.

Nunavik has a population of approximately 13,000 people, with 14 communities in the region.

All the communities are fly-in only and the negative impacts of lack of high-speed internet during the pandemic were brought into stark relief as people were ordered to work from home and many schools opted for online learning. 

The Kativik Regional Government (KRG) building in Kuujjuaq, Quebec. Lucy Kumarluk, KRG vice-president, says the spread of high-speed internet in Nunavik is important for giving residents better access to everything from education to the justice system. (Eilís Quinn/Eye on the Arctic)

Kumarluk says the investments announced on Wednesday will go along way towards knocking down the internet divide between Nunavik and the rest of the Canada.

“Access to high-speed internet will break down the digital divide and allow for improved socio-economic benefits, job creation and public safety, not to mention improving household online experience, allowing multiple connected devices at the same time.

“[The announced funding] will allow the KRG to develop new high speed, high capacity broadband network in Nunavik, leading to improved tele-health, tele-education and tele-justice.”

Aiming for 2025 completion

A file photo of Akulivik in Nunavik. High-speed internet is planned to reach the community in December 2023. (Eye on the Arctic)

The laying of a fibre optic network in Nunavik is already in the works.

A 1,193-km fibre-optic transmission network is already installed along the eastern coast of Hudson Bay connecting the Cree community of Whapmagoostui, and the Nunavik communities of Kuujjuarapik, Umiuaq, Inukjuaq and Puvirnituq.

Akulivik, Ivujivik, Salluit are expected to be connected by December 2023.

Supply chain issues may affect the time line of when remaining communities are connected, but it’s hoped all 14 communities will have access to high-speed internet by 2025.

Write to Eilís Quinn at eilis.quinn(at)cbc.ca

Related stories from around the North: 

Canada: Canadian PM promises to connect 98% of Canadians, including in North, to high-speed internet by 2026, CBC News

Norway: New satellites to boost communications in Arctic Norway, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia: Russian military to get fast, secure internet through trans-Arctic cable, The Independent Barents Observer

United States: Fibre optic network to connect Alaska with rest of United States, Alaska Public Media

Eilís Quinn, Eye on the Arctic

Eilís Quinn is an award-winning journalist and manages Radio Canada International’s Eye on the Arctic news cooperation project. Eilís has reported from the Arctic regions of all eight circumpolar countries and has produced numerous documentary and multimedia series about climate change and the issues facing Indigenous peoples in the North.

Her investigative report "Death in the Arctic: A community grieves, a father fights for change," about the murder of Robert Adams, a 19-year-old Inuk man from Arctic Quebec, received the silver medal for “Best Investigative Article or Series” at the 2019 Canadian Online Publishing Awards. The project also received an honourable mention for excellence in reporting on trauma at the 2019 Dart Awards in New York City.

Her report “The Arctic Railway: Building a future or destroying a culture?” on the impact a multi-billion euro infrastructure project would have on Indigenous communities in Arctic Europe was a finalist at the 2019 Canadian Association of Journalists award in the online investigative category.

Her multimedia project on the health challenges in the Canadian Arctic, "Bridging the Divide," was a finalist at the 2012 Webby Awards.

Her work on climate change in the Arctic has also been featured on the TV science program Découverte, as well as Le Téléjournal, the French-Language CBC’s flagship news cast.

Eilís has worked for media organizations in Canada and the United States and as a TV host for the Discovery/BBC Worldwide series "Best in China."

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