Learn more about Northwestern’s Modernization Plan

  • Download Northwestel’s updated Modernization Plan (Jan 16, 2013)
  • Download Northwestel’s original Modernization Plan (July 3, 2012)
  • Download Northwestel’s response to several requests to disclose information ( Feb 15, 2012)
  • Visit Northwestel’s website about the hearings.

Summary – Modernization Plan (from CRTC website)
Northwestel’s Modernization Plan outlined the details of a projected $273 million in capital expenditures over five years from 2013 to 2017. The company proposed, among other things, to:

  • extend wireless services to all 96 communities in Northwestel’s serving territory;
  • upgrade and expand high-speed Internet services across its serving territory;
  • install new switches that will support enhanced calling features and high-speed Internet services, as well as support local number portability and local network interconnection;
  • support transport upgrades (both terrestrial and satellite), and increase backbone diversity; and
  • replace its aging satellite voice network with an Internet Protocol based network.

Northwestel submitted that the funding of investments set out in the Modernization Plan would be divided into two parts: the basic foundation of $233 million, referred to as the “Base Component,” and the “Astral Component” of $40 million.
In Broadcasting Decision 2012-574, the Commission denied the application by BCE Inc., on behalf of Astral Media Inc. (Astral), for authority to change the effective control of Astral’s broadcasting undertakings. Consequently, the funding for the “Astral Component” was not approved.
In this proceeding, the Commission intends to review Northwestel’s Modernization Plan, as well any updates that the company may wish to make to the plan in light of Broadcasting Decision 2012-574, to consider whether the plan addresses the Commission’s concerns set out in Telecom Regulatory Policy 2011-771.

Northwestel’s Modernization Plan – what it provides

  • The goal is to facilitate wider deployment of 4G wireless, High Speed Internet and other service enhancements across the North.
  • Northwestel will commit to a $233M investment through a five-year capital budget.
  • It may take longer than five years to implement these upgrades, given regulatory and competitive pressures.
  • The company is actively pursuing partnerships with third parties to secure public funding to subsidize this service expansion and upgrades.
  • The overwhelming demand from customers and the Territorial governments is for wireless and broadband expansion and enhancements.
  • Northwestel is a major employer in the North, with more than 600 permanent northern residents on payroll.
  • Northwestel employs some technicians outside of major centres like Whitehorse and Yellowknife and provides scholarships to Aboriginal peoples.
  • Northwestel is responsible for the costs to implement local competition, including the provision of local number portability (LNP), subject to exceptions (see TRP 2011-771).

Northwestel’s Modernization Plan – what it leaves out

  • Northwestel will only commit to speeds of 1.5 Mbps up / 384 Kbps down in the 38 satellite-served communities.
  • Much of the planned deployment is contingent on external funding sources. For example, projects proposed in 26 of the 83 communities that will receive 4G wireless upgrades (more than one-third, or 31%) are contingent on external funding to support capital costs.
  • Northwestel does not provide any details on who these third party funders are, or the amount of funding that it is requesting.
  • Northwestel provides no guarantee of delivery of services within five years unless the company receives adequate funding.
  • The Plan does not provide clear metrics on how the company or the Commission can measure its performance or progress.
  • There are no details about the affordability of services like 4G, which may be priced out of reach for some households.
  • The company provides no details of the location of the employees inside its service region, and in particular in the 72 communities considered “remote”. It also does not provide details on the type of employment available to people living in these “remote” communities, such as full time, part time, or contract work.
  • Northwestel did not provide a breakdown of revenues from non-telecommunications services (such as cable operations) that utilize its network infrastructure.