Come fall, the community of Whati will be connected to high-speed internet thanks to nearly $11 million invested from the federal, territorial and Tlicho governments.
The investment, announced in a press conference Thursday, will connect the North Slave community with the existing Mackenzie Valley Fibre Link – an $80 million project running fibre cables through the Dehcho and Sahtu regions up to Inuvik.
The new fibre cables are expected to deliver high speed internet to 152 households, Northern Affairs Minister Daniel Vandal said, “helping to create jobs, enhance delivery of vital services such as health care and online learning services and keep families connected.”
Laying the fibre cables will be completed in tandem with Whati’s. Whati Chief Alfonz Nitsiza told media that construction is set to begin as early as June and they anticipate will be completed along with the road this fall.
As it stands, Nitsiza said the need for improved internet is drastic. While the Chief was able to join Thursday’s media call over zoom, he said it was because they were having a good day and that sometimes the community isn’t able to connect to the internet at all.
“This project is a great example of the very positive things that can happen when the Tlicho Government works closely with our partners,” Nitsiza said.
Of the nearly $11 million being invested, $8 million is being contributed federally, $1.5 million from the Tlicho government and $1.4 million from the government of the Northwest Territories.
One criticism of previous Northern connectivity projects is the concept of ‘the last mile’ – the final stage in connecting fibre lines with individual homes and businesses. The cost of connecting the last mile lies with internet service providers and has posed a challenge for businesses without the pockets to do so.
While call participants were not able to address the issue of the last mile for the Whati project, Caroline Wawzonek, Minister of Finance and of Industry, Tourism and Investment, said that “with support from the CRTC and in cooperation with Northwestel, a lot of that last mile work is going to get done in the next couple of years.”
“The COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced something we already knew – that universal access to reliable high-speed Internet is critical to the well-being of our communities,” she said.
“The Whati Fibre project is an excellent example of what can be achieved with three governments working together to address the needs of our residents.”