Starting this week, the community of Nahanni Butte has better and faster internet.
Northwestel continues to roll out improved service to most northern communities and said this week that Aklavik and Nahanni Butte can now access unlimited high-speed fiber optic internet.
These communities now have download speeds of up to 50 Mbps, up from the previous limit of 15 Mbps.
“I’ve already had a call from a tourist highlighting the speed improvement and I can see the difference for myself,” said Soham Srimani, band manager for the Nahæâ Dehé Dene Band in Nahanni Butte.
Srimani says improving the quality and speed of Nahanni Butte’s internet has been a “personal goal” since the day he arrived.
He explained that important community needs — like participating in online learning and coursework, video conferencing between the band office and other government leaders, and running the community’s new Parks Canada office — all depend on the service. For Nahanni Butte to grow and participate in Canada’s economy, Srimani said the community must be able to rely on online access.
“The internet has become such an integral part of our lives that its limitation means we lag behind the rest of Canada in terms of healthcare, education and business growth,” he said. “From tourism growth to community service delivery to implementing quality infrastructure projects and promoting local crafts, increased connectivity is the need of the hour.”
Nahanni Butte is a fly-in (or boat-in) community for more than three months of the year, so Srimani and other community members say access to arts, media, and entertainment plays an important role in promoting mental health plays.
“It’s great to finally have a faster internet source,” said Lory-Ann Bertrand, who serves as community coordinator. “We installed ours last week.”
The upgrades are part of a three-year Northwestel project, funded in part by the telecoms regulator CRTC, to bring better internet connectivity to northern communities. Six more NWT communities are expected to be upgraded over the next year.
But Srimani said ensuring Nahanni Butte would be part of the project required council members and Chief Steve Vital to work closely with Northwestel to ensure the community met requirements to complete the upgrade.
New street signs, house numbers and a Canadian post office were all part of this puzzle. By putting these things in place, Northwestel was able to create a working address database for Nahanni Butte, which Srimani said was a prerequisite for installing fiber optic services.
And the Nahæâ Dehé Dene Band isn’t done yet. The band say they will continue to work with Northwestel on improvements to the community web for years to come.
“Nowadays, a fast internet connection is no longer a luxury. It’s a staple,” Srimani said.