It’s been interesting trying to fill the newspaper this week.
When the first major power outage hit Inuvik this weekend, our office was closed at the time. However, for many people in town, including New North Networks customers, the power outage lingered over an hour. People unfortunate enough to rely on electric heating tell me they had to bundle up in fur to keep warm.
Of course, if you work Monday to Friday, you were likely mildly inconvenienced by the power outage that hit the town late Tuesday morning. Though if your job relied on the internet at all, you had already been trying to figure out how to do it without a connection for nearly a day when that happened.
Thanks to a cut fibre optic line in Tulita, internet and television was out in much of the Beaufort Delta for almost two days. Even RCMP had to issue a notice asking people to pursue alternative means of communication. Much of this week’s paper was filed using mobile data, a benefit of the modern era. Without that, the entire thing would have had to have been phoned in or express mailed to Yellowknife using a thumb drive or SD card.
Such is life in the far North, where planes can be delayed due to weather or mechanical issues at a moment’s notice, a sudden blizzard can close the only road to civilization and a simple one-hour-in-the-shop vehicle problem can take months and thousand of dollars to fix. Or at least this is how we brush off these system breakdowns, usually with some self-assuring thought about how much tougher we are than those southern folk.
Delusions of grandeur of course, though J. Michael Straczynski once wrote those who are going to have delusions might as well aim for the really satisfying ones. Regardless, these ongoing disruptions in service are a major obstacle to economic development in the region.
Shelves were bare in several stores in town in the last week as trucks were delayed, most likely by weather. Certainly, when you have only one road and that road literally goes over the top of a mountain, you are at the mercy of the elements. Even more so with airfare, especially for our even more remote neighbours out in the Beaufort Sea.
Tourists who make the trek here likely can handle a lot, though the least we can have for them is a few restaurants or places to get coffee. But how is one reasonably able to maintain a kitchen and dining room when the power, internet or supply lines could stop at any time, with zero notice? Or even get financial backing to get something started?
Before any real investment can come to the region, we need backups to our infrastructure. We need something to carry the grid through our frequent power outages, a second road to bring goods in and out of the region and a second fibre line or satellite connection to cover our e-commerce when the fibre optic line gets cut, which appears to happen at least once a year.
If we are serious about attracting investment to Inuvik, we need to show investors this is a safe place to put money. These constant outages show the opposite.