Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Cancel Anytime
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](,dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

Senator Dennis Patterson walks off Parliament Hill, in Ottawa, on Feb. 26, 2013.

Dave Chan/The Globe and Mail

Internet access and affordability in Nunavut are at a point of crisis that requires federal assistance, say the territory’s senator and a major service provider.

Senator Dennis Patterson said in an interview that the territory has been “left out in the dark” despite funding announcements promised by the federal government to help bridge what it called the digital divide.

Spending has yet to trickle down to the territory to provide critical service needed by thousands of residents, Mr. Patterson said.

Story continues below advertisement

He said he has “a sense of crisis about this" because of how much Nunavut residents rely on the internet, especially with a heightened need during the pandemic to access health information and to connect isolated families.

“This cliff was known to be coming. This is the result of neglect and a failure to respond to expressed needs months ago.”

Last week, Mr. Patterson asked Senator Marc Gold, the government representative in the Red Chamber, when the federal government will take concrete steps to protect access of Nunavut residents to reliable and reasonably priced internet.

Mr. Patterson mentioned three service providers to Mr. Gold: SSi Canada, which provides access to 67 per cent of residents outside of Iqaluit; another provider that has had its internet service interrupted by fog and rain; and a third provider that said it would pull out of the territory.

“The lack of new funding assistance means that thousands of households are at imminent risk of losing the internet or having to pay huge amounts,” he said.

SSi Canada is asking Ottawa to look at urgent solutions.

The company launched its service, known as QINIQ, in 2005. It says that since then, a large majority of households in the territory have relied on it.

Story continues below advertisement

The company said that service is now at risk for reasons that include the lapse of a federal government subsidy. As a result, the full cost of broadband and available satellite capacity is pushed to the limit.

In 2015, the federal government announced a $35-million investment through the Connecting Canadians program to extend and enhance broadband service available to communities in Nunavut.

In an urgent letter sent to the Prime Minister’s Office and a number of government departments on Oct. 1, SSi’s chief development officer, Dean Proctor, said the subsidy has now lapsed in 23 of 25 Nunavut communities, with Pond Inlet and Iqaluit being the two exceptions.

The company has reached a difficult but “inevitable decision” to stop new account sign-ups in the most congested communities to help reduce strain on the network and to allow existing customers to have access to an acceptable quality of service, he said.

“SSi is also evaluating how to manage the increased costs to deliver broadband with the loss of subsidies,” Mr. Proctor wrote.

He said the company has been working to avoid the situation but noted there have not been funding decisions for Nunavut from the CRTC Broadband Fund to improve network capacity and reduce service costs.

Story continues below advertisement

SSi has also been waiting for the new federal Universal Broadband Fund since it was announced in March of 2019, Mr. Proctor wrote.

“SSi cannot subsidize QINIQ broadband service in all communities without assistance."

Marie-Pier Baril, a press secretary for Rural Economic Development Minister Maryam Monsef, said in a statement that access to services, opportunities to connect in isolation and telework all depend on high-speed internet.

“Even before the COVID-19 crisis began, the government recognized that fast, reliable and affordable high-speed internet is a necessity, not a luxury, for all Canadians, including those living in rural and remote communities,” Ms. Baril said.

The federal government has a plan to make sure communities with limited or no access benefit from high-speed internet, she added, citing investments such as $1.7-billion in the 2019 federal budget to support high-speed internet, which included $1-billion for the Universal Broadband Fund. She said the fund would launch soon.

Ms. Baril also said the CRTC has established a $750-million fund to “help provide all Canadians with access to broadband internet and mobile wireless services.”

Story continues below advertisement

“They recently announced funding for five projects that included four in the North and future project announcements are expected,” she said.

In response to the statement from Minister Monsef’s spokeswoman, Mr. Proctor said the company appreciates there are various broadband funding programs announced and launched by the CRTC and the federal government, but he added that delays in releasing funds will lead to hardships for Nunavut residents.

“Without a commitment to federal assistance – support that we will match with SSi’s own investments – we will be required to reduce satellite capacity and increase retail internet rates, which will cause thousands of Nunavut homes to lose subsidized internet access,” he said.

"We are trying to avert a crisis. If not addressed now, thousands of connected households will lose what capacity they have due to government inaction.”

Know what is happening in the halls of power with the day’s top political headlines and commentary as selected by Globe editors (subscribers only). Sign up today.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies