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The CRTC will call an inquiry into satellite telecom services offered across remote regions in the Far North early next year, Nunatsiaq Online reports.

In a decision released Wednesday, the CRTC said more must be done to bridge the divide between communities with terrestrial facilities, like fibre and microwave, and those that rely exclusively on satellite communications. The entire territory of Nunavut is served by satellite.

It’s not simply a case of providing higher-speed Internet connections. Of the 96 communities in Yukon, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, 26 don’t have such basic facilities as call display, call answer and call waiting services, according to the Canadian Press.

The area is served by carrier Northwestel, which provides services to Nunavut over a satellite connection provided by Telesat Canada. Since Telesat hasn’t been regulated since 2007, and company representatives didn’t appear at hearings in Yellowknife and Whitehorse on Northwestel’s $233-million modernization plan, the CRTC can’t make an informed decision about the latter’s operating costs, said chair Jean-Pierre Blais in a news release.

“Northwestel’s plan will create many positive outcomes for Canadians in the North. We will be closely monitoring Northwestel as it implements its plan over the coming years to ensure its benefits are realized,” Blais said.

Northwestel must provide a revised plan by March 31, 2014, particularly detailing its proposed fibre investments.

Blais also said the CRTC will maintain its current price cap regime for Northwestel customers for another four years. Due to a lack of competition, the carrier will have to file rate changes for approval by the CRTC.

Additionally, the CRTC has revised the rates for Northwestel’s Wholesale Connect service, which allows competitors to deliver services over Northwestel infrastructure, to ensure the company is “reasonably compensated for its costs.”

Northwestel must also offer its retail Internet services separately from voice services.

Read the full story here.

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