Sat. Dec 2nd, 2023
Yellowknife in Need of Internet Redundancy

Residents of Yellowknife and other communities in the Northwest Territories found themselves without internet access when the fibre line went down at 1pm on Friday afternoon. The outage affected wireless networks and cell data, leaving only those with alternative internet access, like Starlink, online. This incident highlights the need for a backup plan to ensure connectivity during such situations.

Yellowknife and the connected communities heavily rely on a single fibre line for internet access, making them vulnerable to outages. Previous incidents, such as the South Slave’s week-long communication loss during summer fires and vandalism-related outages in Yellowknife, have further emphasized the issue. The solution lies in creating a redundant network infrastructure.

In late 2021, Northwestel, the dominant internet provider in the region, partnered with Yellowknives Dene First Nation’s Det’on Cho Management to build a backup fibre line. The proposed line would run beneath Great Slave Lake and was estimated to cost up to $20 million. However, there haven’t been any recent updates on the progress of this project or indications of government funding to support its completion.

While the fate of the backup fibre line remains uncertain, the emergence of low-Earth orbit satellite services like Starlink brings new possibilities. Many residents in the Northwest Territories have already switched to Starlink due to its reliability during fibre outages caused by wildfires. Northwestel, recognizing the competition, is also planning its own low-Earth orbit satellite installation in Yellowknife.

It is likely that more satellite internet options will become available in the near future, posing a threat to traditional land-based internet providers. However, reliance on satellite networks brings its own set of challenges, such as satellite network downtimes. It is essential for the region to have a comprehensive backup plan that ensures uninterrupted internet access, regardless of the technology used.

In conclusion, the internet outage in Yellowknife serves as a reminder of the need for redundancy in network infrastructure. While the backup fibre line project faces uncertainties, the growing presence of satellite internet services like Starlink offers an alternative solution. The region must continue to explore options that guarantee reliable connectivity for its residents in all circumstances.