Upgrading the whole region would take at least until 2025, says telecommunications adviser
Nunavik will receive $123.9 million for improved high-speed Internet service, with money coming from the federal and Quebec governments and the Kativik Regional Government.
The funding was announced Tuesday during a virtual press conference with Federal Parliamentary Secretary for Rural Economic Development Stéphane Lauzon and Quebec Minister of Indigenous Affairs Ian Lafrenière.
Lucy Kumarluk, Vice President of ARK, and Dan Pellerin, Special Advisor in Telecommunications for ARK and Tamaani, also spoke about the project.
Currently, Internet service provider Tamaani’s fiber optic network is centered around the lower Hudson Bay communities of Nunavik, including Whapmagoostui, Kuujjuarapik, Umiujaq, Inukjuak and Puvirnituq. It is connected to the Eeyou communication network in Chisasibi.
Lafrenière said the money will allow more communities in northern Nunavik to connect to the network. He said some will also be used to improve Internet service in Kuujjuaq and on the coast of Ungava Bay.
Lafrenière said he hopes this will allow Nunavimmiut to use the Internet for essential services online, and at the same speed as people living in the south.
“I saw with my own eyes how important it was in terms of education, justice and health,” he said, speaking in English and French.
“I am certain that today’s announcement will really change the quality of life of the people of Nunavik.
Kumarluk said the upgrade would be welcomed by Nunavimmiut. She said better internet will meet the growing demand for digital services in the region and enable home networks to support the connection of multiple devices.
“The KRG appreciates the confirmed financial support from governments to reduce the digital divide that separates Nunavik from the rest of Canada,” she said.
“Access to high-speed Internet should not be hampered by the remoteness of the communities, and we hope one day to have equal access for the 14 communities of Nunavik.
Achieving equal access across Nunavik will take time. Pellerin said it could take at least three years for that to happen.
He said communities on the lower Hudson Bay coast will be the first to be connected. Next year, work will be done in Akulivik, Ivujivik and Salluit to connect them.
Pending supply issues, work in Kuujjuaq and the remaining communities will begin in 2024.
“In my little dream world, I would like it all to be over tomorrow, but that’s not going to happen,” Pellerin said. “We don’t have a specific timeline, but if it could be done by 2025 that would be ideal.”