Some Yukon Xplornet customers won't face planned shutdown of services — for now

·3 min read

Neil Fletcher has been worried about his phone and internet services being shut down for months now.

He and his wife live in the bush north of Dawson City, Yukon, and they rely on the satellite link for those services. Since the summer he and other Xplornet Satellite customers in the North have been anxiously anticipating their services to be cut at the end of December.

"The internet is really the utility now that people have based their lives around, and to have the threat of losing that is really something quite serious in 2020," said Fletcher.

In August, an Xplornet spokesperson told CBC that some internet customers of Xplornet in the North would have to find a new provider for next year.

And then on Tuesday, Fletcher and other customers in the territory received a note saying the company would be extending its services for some customers, like them, beyond the earlier-communicated cut-off date of Dec. 31.

But Xplornet didn't say when that extension would go until.

"We are still living under the potential threat of it being turned off at some unknown time in the future, so very grateful it's been extended but very concerned we don't know the actual extent," said Fletcher.

"I'm really grateful for our territorial politicians who have really put in a lot of work to help us through this situation."

Lacey McLoughlin Photography
Lacey McLoughlin Photography

Currie Dixon, leader of the Yukon Party, said the party started to hear concerns about possible future internet shutdowns in July and August.

Dixon wrote a letter to Navdeep Bains, the federal minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, in September asking him to seek out a solution with Xplornet.

Dixon also wanted to see if there was any way the federal government could financially incentivize the continuation of broadband services in rural Yukon in the short term while the territorial government worked on a longer-term solution.

"It comes down to money, and we'd seen Xplornet apply for and receive funding elsewhere in the country, so we asked the federal government to consider that up here as well."

He said though he hasn't heard back from Ottawa yet, the letters to customers are a step in the right direction.

"We don't know what the long-term solution is going to be, but we are happy we at least have a bridge to a longer-term solution now. We just hope that it's long enough," said Dixon.

Jane Sponagle/CBC
Jane Sponagle/CBC

On Wednesday in the legislature, Yukon's Highways and Public Works Minister Richard Mostyn, said he was very happy to see the written confirmation of service extensions.

"Living in the remote wilderness and having that connection to the global communications network has proved absolutely essential for Yukoners, we heard that loud and clear," he said.

Mostyn said he and the premier had conversations with the president of the company in early September and "made it known that that wasn't just enough time during a pandemic."

"To actually cut off a number of businesses, citizens and tourism operators from their connection to the global communications network was simply not acceptable," said Mostyn.

He said he hopes the extension gives people more time to find alternatives and launch them.