Telecom Commission Letter addressed to Mr. Stan Thompson (Northwestel Inc.)

Ottawa, 15 August 2019

Our references: 8663-C12-201000116


Mr. Stan Thompson
Chief Financial Officer & Vice-President
Northwestel Inc.
P.O. Box 2727
Whitehorse, Yukon Y1A 4Y4

Re:  Request for Information regarding major telecommunications disruptions in the North

Dear Mr. Thompson:

In recent days, various media have reported on the service outages across the North on July 13, 2019 and August 12, 2019, caused by damage to Northwestel fibre optic lines near Yellowknife. According to these reports, the damage impacted long distance phone service across the North, as well as cell phones, TV and Internet services in Yellowknife and surrounding areas, and severely stifled local business and services.

Media are widely reporting that vandalism is the suspected cause of the fibre optic line damage. Northwestel is also quoted as indicating that while a majority of the fibre optic cable running into the Northwest Territories is protected by a redundant loop, or a secondary fibre path, there is no redundant fibre path in the single optic cable running from Fort Providence to Yellowknife.

In exercising its powers and performing its duties under the Telecommunications Act, the Commission must implement the Canadian telecommunications policy objectives set out in section 7 of that Act, including to render reliable and affordable telecommunications services of high quality accessible to Canadians in both urban and rural areas in all regions of Canada. Accordingly, Commission staff requests the following information by 26 August 2019. Northwestel is to provide comprehensive answers, including rationale and any supporting information.

  1. Provide a list of service outages since July 2018 that lasted four or more hours and affected five or more households, with their location and dates.
  2. Indicate the steps taken to address the service outages identified in Question 1 and the mean time to restore service in each case.
  3. Describe how redundancy is ensured throughout Northwestel’s network, including the Mackenzie Valley Fibre Link.
  4. If any sections of the network do not include redundant paths, describe these as well as Northwestel’s plan to address this. Identify any single points of failure.
  5. Describe any measures you take to provide network level resiliency and comment on the level of service provided until the network is fully restored.
    1. Identify if resiliency is to be achieved only through redundant (replicated) paths/links or if considerations also being pursued to include diversity of design such as topology, hardware, software etc.
    2. Identify if there are any detection mechanisms in place to quickly and accurately find the failure point(s).
  6. Describe any security measures the company plans to implement to address the risk of vandalism to its infrastructure.


Original signed by Guillaume Castonguay for

Michel Murray
Director, Dispute Resolution and Regulatory Implementation
Telecommunications sector

cc.:  Wendy McClintock, CRTC, 819-639-6211,

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