Taking the Measure of Internet Access Around the Arctic
Tara Sweeney, the chair of the Arctic Economic Council, once met a man from the Faroe Islands who earned a living designing maps for flight simulators from his home. The encounter made a lasting impression: if someone living on a remote island in the North Atlantic halfway between Norway and Iceland is able to eke out a living in the high-tech economy, why couldn’t others do the same in Arctic communities?
Naturally, a big impediment to that dream is the lack of availability to high-speed internet connections in a considerable part of the Arctic region. In general, Europe’s Arctic nations put North America’s Arctic internet connectivity to shame, while many remote areas of Russia also remain laggards. But, as indicated by a report recently released by the AEC on the state of broadband access across the Arctic, that picture is changing as new projects roll out.
Along Alaska’s western and northern coasts, a private firm named Quintillion unspooled 1,850 kilometres (1,150 miles) of fiber-optic cable along the seabed last year. Regional hubs along those coasts are expected to start receiving broadband later this year, and the company envisions one day continuing the line that it weaves through Canadian Arctic waters. For now, the Canadian territory of Nunavut remains dependent on slow and expensive satellite feeds for its internet access.