Bandwidth limitations have been lifted across the Northwest Territories, but in remote communities like Sachs Harbour, many residents are saying they don’t have the internet hook-up to take advantage.
Instead, many residents told the Inuvik Drum they use their mobile phones and the data plans for their internet.
“Most of us use our cell phone’s data hotspot because it’s faster and less hassle,” said Bernadette Nakimayak. “Northwestel workers are not flown in to often so we do what we can to communicate and get our work done.”
NWT Bureau of Statistics reports that in 2014, out of 40 households in Sachs Harbour, 33 were hooked up to home internet access or 82.5 per cent — a jump from 68.1 per cent in 2009. Of those 33, 27 are listed as having wireless internet and six without.
However, former Northwestel technician Manny Kudlak said there hasn’t been a technician in Sachs Harbour for four years and most residents have given up reporting slow connections and dropped calls.
He added that equipment issues in the town that predated Northwestel were never addressed when DSL was brought into the town and it seemed every attempt to speed up the internet just slowed it down more.
“One of my biggest issues and why I let my phone line disconnect was the overage fees,” he continued. “The highest cap we can get here is 45gb when you get to 100 GB it is almost triple the cost of the highest plan. Trying to stream a video here is almost impossible unless you turn the quality way down.
“There is an issue that has been happening here for as long as I can remember that at noon every day the internet and some cell service cuts off for two to five minutes. Every single day.”
He added there was a sense of frustration in the community with the southern part of the territory getting a huge boost in speed while more remote communities in the north get left in the dust.
Kudlak noted the issues with slow internet was not limited to Sachs Harbour. In his time speaking with others about their connectivity issues, he said the issue was prevalent in communities throughout the Inuvialuit Settlement Region.
But he noted most people would rather leave the problem as it is than risk the connection getting any worse.
“As a former employee and customer I have no faith in Northwestel fixing any issues in my community and if they do they will just slow our internet more,” he said. “Inviting their attention to Sachs Harbour will just make things worse as there are issues here that are older than Northwestel that they never got around to fixing. Because it is just a town of 40-year-old phone lines and not worth Bell’s time.”
Still for others, the added expense of two phones outweighs the benefits, so most find it more economical to stick with their mobiles.