Our Modernization Plan

Building a more connected North

In 2013, Northwestel embarked on its most ambitious plan to upgrade telecommunications in Canada’s North. The goal of the five year Modernization Plan is to provide customers with unprecedented access to faster speeds, new features and better service — all designed to bring them closer to what matters most. Through the Modernization Plan, we have, and will continue to make, major investments that result in a more connected North.

Northwestel Modernization Plan Map

  • 274 Modernization Plan upgrades were completed by the end of 2015, exceeding initial targets

  • 63% of Northerners can connect to the Internet faster and more reliably today than in 2013

  • With our partners at Bell, we’re bringing the best-available wireless service to the North

  • 89% of Northerners can now use the latest technology to call, text, browse & connect in ways never before possible

View the full 2015 Modernization Plan report card (PDF) >

Thank you to those who have shared their views with the CRTC.

Frequently asked questions

  • Q1. Why is Northwestel’s 5-year Modernization Plan great for northerners?

    Here are some quick facts:

    • Our Modernization Plan represents the largest investment in communications ever undertaken in the North and is hugely important in terms of social and economic development. 
    • Our Plan will deliver:
      • Cellular access to 99% of Northerners
      • Faster Internet speeds in 58 communities
      • Enhanced calling features (like Call Display) to all communities
      • More advanced network infrastructure
    • Overall, the Plan will enable more competition, innovation and investment
    • Everyone benefits
  • Q2. Will the Plan lead to lower service prices or other savings?

    At Northwestel, we know that competitive and innovative service, as well as a constantly improving customer focus, are critical. While there are no specific price reductions included in our Modernization Plan, the Plan will clearly deliver benefits across the North, improving value and driving future pricing decisions by Northwestel as well as competitors.

  • Q3. Why is Northwestel doing this now?

    Northwestel has long been the North’s leading investor in communications infrastructure, investing millions of dollars every year, but we also know that more needs to be done to keep pace with advancing technologies. Many northern businesses, customers, and local governments have spoken and we are taking action.

  • Q4. What are some of the economic benefits?

    Investing in the North’s communications infrastructure delivers many economic benefits. The distances between communities becomes less of a barrier; businesses of all sizes are better able to develop and leverage online opportunities and capabilities; and governments can deliver services more efficiently and effectively. Telehealth, permit registrations, environmental programs and community development initiatives become more manageable. In addition, improvements in education such as distance learning become more viable, ensuring northerners have access to more education and skills training opportunities.

  • Q5. Will the Modernization Plan create jobs in the North?

    Having access to advanced communications services generates tremendous opportunities for job growth across most industries. Within Northwestel, any investment as significant as our Modernization Plan requires people to support it. Our roughly 600 employees and their families make major contributions as purchasers of local goods and services, as volunteers and as local taxpayers. Spouses work in other sectors and children contribute immeasurably to the social fabric. Northwestel is a northern leader in job recruitment, training and safety – standards that will continue to apply as we move forward with the Modernization Plan.

  • Q6. Does the CRTC have to approve the Modernization Plan?

    No. However, it is critical that the CRTC not impose conditions on Northwestel that make our millions of dollars in investments impossible to justify. Northwestel is the only Northern-based company capable of moving forward with such a huge and comprehensive Modernization Plan. The last thing the company wants is to delay any investments we are committed to making.

  • Q7. What happens if Northwestel’s projected revenues over the next five years fall short?

    Northwestel is fully committed to modernizing the North’s communications infrastructure. If there are major changes that impact the company’s ability to generate revenue in a competitive market, some investments may be delayed. This includes any CRTC decision that may impose more difficult operating conditions on the company.

  • Q8. Why does the Modernization Plan include investments that will help competitors?

    Northwestel fully supports competitors using our networks. Because communications networks cost so much to build and maintain, competitors often prefer to connect with customers using the existing networks of companies like Northwestel. Competitors are able to access existing networks at wholesale prices regulated by the CRTC, which have a direct bearing on how much a company like Northwestel can invest.

  • Q9. How is this Plan different from other Service Improvement Plans Northwestel has implemented in the past? Isn’t the amount being invested comparable to what the company usually spends?

    Northwestel is bearing much more of the financial responsibility and risk as part of this Modernization Plan. In fact, excluding funds for the Service Improvement Plan (SIP) previously authorized by the CRTC from 2001-2010, our average annual capital expenditures are projected to increase by almost 40% compared to the same time period. That’s a major increase in investment by Northwestel.

  • Q10. How is Northwestel paying for this? Is the company asking for government subsidies?

    Northwestel continues to build on our very successful track record of working in partnership with other groups – including Aboriginal and First Nations development associations – to ensure service gaps are filled in areas where there is no business case to support investment.

  • Q11. How can I find out more about how the Modernization Plan will impact me and my community?

    We’re on Facebook and Twitter.