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It’s no surprise – northern consumers pay more for bundled services

Mapping expert Chris Kalluk hiking above Iqaluit. Beyond the regional population centres of the North, Internet access varies significantly, the Conference Board of Canada reports.

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This is part of a series looking at infrastructure projects designed to create economic opportunities in the North.

As anyone living in the north of Canada knows, it is sometimes difficult to explain to those in the country's big cities just how slow and expensive the Internet can be in remote communities.

However this summer, one of the more detailed reports on the phenomenon was released.

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The report, titled "Mapping the long-term options for Canada's North: Telecommunications and Broadband Connectivity" and put together by the Conference Board of Canada's Centre for the North, is a comprehensive take on the state of telecommunications in the country's northern territories.

The report found that the average northern resident pays about $139 a month for a basket of services that includes basic cellphone, home phone and high-speed Internet plans – significantly higher than a similar basket in most of southern Canada. In Nunavut, residents pay about $170 for the same bundle.

"Compared with their southern metropolitan counterparts, northern consumers pay more for personal telecommunications and high-speed Internet services, notwithstanding the support that northern service providers may receive from targeted government funding or regulatory subsidy," the report's authors concluded.

The report did find some cause for optimism. For example, the largest population centres in Canada's North, including Yellowknife and Whitehorse, have seen vast improvements in the quality and quantity of telecommunications networks in the past two years, and more communities are starting to find alternatives to relatively expensive satellite-based access.

But those cases remain the exception, rather than the rule.

"In addition to accessing e-mail and Web pages, residents who can afford premium Internet services and smart mobile devices can potentially explore media-rich maps and virtual worlds, join in videoconferencing, and subscribe to video-on-demand," the report stated.

"However, this is far from a uniformly enjoyed experience – there are significant dead spots beyond the regional population centres of the North (including important highway corridors), and real-user experiences may vary significantly from what service providers advertise."

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