Iqaluit, Kimmirut to be connected with fibre internet by 2023

Funding for plans to connect Nunavut to Greenland with fibre optic cabling was made clear Monday in an announcement by Canada's Minister of Rural Economic Development in Iqaluit. 

Bernadette Jordan promised $151 million in federal funding for the high speed internet project. The Government of Nunavut has already committed $30 million. 

"With Nunavut particularly, having a fibre project is really exciting because it's the only place that doesn't have one in the country," Jordan said. 

Nunavut's internet is currently supplied via satellite and the fastest speeds available are Iqaluit at 15-megabits per second.

The underwater cabling will stretch 1,700 kilometres from Nuuk, Greenland, through the Davis Strait to Iqaluit and on to the existing link between Greenland and Milton, Newfoundland. 

Nunavut's Minister of Community and Government Services Lorne Kusugak said the design plan for the connection will be finalized by 2021 and the cable laid in 2022. 

Iqaluit and Kimmirut are expected to have access to the high speed internet — around 1 gigabyte per second — by 2023.  

A request for proposals looking for a company to plan for and lay the cabling is expected to go out in November, according to Jordan. 

"They will be looking at the ocean floor and looking for the best possible route from here to Greenland, you have your iceberg alley and stuff like that that we have to be aware of," Kusugak said. 

David Gunn/CBC

GN will own bandwidth 

The cabling will be owned by the Government of Nunavut, though Kusugak says how internet will be doled out to Iqaluit and Kimmirut households has yet to be determined. 

He said the government is looking at the possibility of leasing bandwidth to the current internet providers in the territory, or public-private ownership models. 

All households in the two communities are expected to have access to the faster internet, as will businesses and the government. 

Once installed, Iqaluit and Kimmirut will no longer rely on satellite for their internet, so other Nunavut communities will have more satellite bandwidth freed up for their use. 

The federal money for this project comes from the Rural and Northern Communities Infrastructure Stream of the Investing in Canada infrastructure plan.

This stream was funded in Canada's 2017 budget with a roll-out plan stretching 12 years. 

Kusugak says the eventual plan is to connect as many Nunavut communities as possible to this fibre cable.