About the project
The Dempster Fibre Project is an 800-kilometre fibre optic line that follows the Dempster Highway from Dawson City, Yukon, to Inuvik, Northwest Territories.
Northern communities currently depend on a single fibre optic line. When that line goes down, the region is largely cut off from the digital world. Once in Inuvik, the fibre line will connect to the existing Mackenzie Valley Fibre Link. Together, the new line will complete a 4,000-kilometre network. That network will provide communities along the loop with a backup line in the event of a service disruption and provide more reliable internet and cellphone services.
The Dempster Fibre Line will be a public asset owned by the Government of Yukon. NorthwesTel will lease and operate the line for a period of 20 years.
Current project status
The government has actively engaged and involved in the planning process:
- the Tr’ondëk Hwëchin;
- the Vuntut Gwichin First Nation;
- the First Nation of Na Cho Nyäk Dun; and
- 5 Gwich’in organizations in the Northwest Territories.
The relevant regulatory applications have been submitted. Reviews are now underway by the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board and the Mackenzie Valley Land and Water Board in the Northwest Territories.
In September 2019, procurement information sessions were held to inform First Nations, businesses and other potential contractors about the significant construction opportunities this project will generate.
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Due to the remoteness of the route, there are many environmental factors that require careful consideration. These include:
- vegetation and wetlands;
- fish and fish habitat;
- wildlife and wildlife habitat.
Both Yukon and the Northwest Territories have legislation in place for the protection of heritage resources. Heritage resource assessment work is being completed to address areas that are of specific concern.
Business and employment opportunities:
There are many potential future employment opportunities, such as brush-clearing, wildlife-monitoring, construction, support services and geotechnical and drilling work.
How the fibre line will work
Fibre optic cable
The majority of the cable will be installed in the right-of-way of the Klondike and Dempster highways. The cable will be able to withstand diverse weather conditions and landscapes.
Construction methods will vary along the route to accommodate changes in terrain. For example, most of the cable will be buried underground. Some aerial sections may be attached to existing Yukon Energy poles or attached to bridges for water crossings.
The government will use existing NorthwesTel facilities located in Dawson City and Inuvik to house terminal equipment.
POPs are where the cable connects to users and communities along the route. These will be connected to the community electrical grid, and backup generators will supply power in the event of a power outage.
Handholes are shallow box-type structures made of fibreglass. They are approximately 80-centimetres wide, 120-centimetres long and 80-centimetres high. Handholes are needed to provide access to the cable for maintenance.
Handholes will be installed every 5 to 10 kilometres along the route. These can be built above or below ground. Most will be built above ground to avoid permafrost and to minimize impacts.
Handholes will also have signs to ensure that the public can see them.
Network operations and control centre (NOCC)
The existing centre in Yellowknife will be used. The NOCC is capable of monitoring and maintaining both the cable and the signal. The NOCC can also change the direction of the signal if something goes wrong.