Newspaper article The Canadian Press

CRTC Lays out Plan for NorthwesTel to Provide Better Telecom Service in North

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

CRTC Lays out Plan for NorthwesTel to Provide Better Telecom Service in North

Article excerpt

CRTC wants better telecom service in North

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The CRTC wants better wireless and Internet service in Canada's North and has laid out a plan for a Bell Canada subsidiary to get services in line with consumer expectations in the "second decade of the 21st century."

NorthwesTel is expected to spend $233 million by 2017 to make improvements in services that consumers in southern Canada already have, CRTC Commissioner Jean-Pierre Blais said Wednesday.

"You get the impression that, in the North, we're talking about things that we take for granted here and have for a number of years," Blais said in an interview from Gatineau, Que.

"On top of that, it's not just catching up to what we had 10 years ago. It's about how do you get these communities up to par to what we expect in the second decade of the 21st century," Blais said.

That will mean offering caller ID and call waiting as well as improved Internet service and faster wireless networks.

The CRTC said 70 communities now have access to call display, call answer and call waiting services and by 2017, all 96 communities will have these services provided by NorthwesTel.

By 2017, 83 of the 96 communities are expected to have access to a faster wireless network to allow use of data such as mobile apps.

"The North is a huge territory and the situation in the 96 communities is quite varied from one place to the next," Blais said.

NorthwesTel said it's pleased the CRTC is supporting its plan to upgrade its services. The subsidiary of Bell Canada (TSX:BCE) serves the Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut and northern parts of British Columbia and Alberta.

"However, it's a complex decision and we'll need some time to review it in detail before commenting further," NorthwesTel said in a statement.

The CRTC's NorthwesTel decision was released Wednesday shortly after the federal industry minister said the government will limit roaming charges that Canada's big wireless carriers can levie on domestic rivals for use of their networks.

The federal regulator also said it has taken steps to help consumers in NorthwesTel's territory, including a four-year price cap on services. …

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