Connectivity over the Arctic: a basic human right, by Mariah Shuman, Head of Regulatory Affairs, OneWeb Americas

By Mariah Shuman, Head of Regulatory Affairs, OneWeb Americas

In the Arctic region, limited access to government services creates a marked division between northern and southern communities.

Public sector digitalisation is one of the trillion-dollar challenges that governments and businesses are undertaking with the aim to increase efficiency, prevent fraud, and enhance productivity. A reliable internet connection is a basic requirement to use these services, and for many areas this still poses a problem. Without access to the internet, even simple government services like access to vital records become complicated.

By 2021, around 90 percent of all Canadians are projected to have reliable access to the internet, defined as 50 Mbps for downloading data and 10 Mbps for uploads. That still leaves 10 percent of the country’s citizens, or 1.4 million households, unconnected to the internet and the services and opportunities it brings. Most of these unconnected households are in remote areas where it is logistically impossible or financially impractical to deploy terrestrial networks. In these places, a lack of internet increasingly means a lack of access to public services.

Without intervention, this digital gap will follow the global trends we already see between connected and unconnected populations. In the Arctic, this means that northern areas would continue to be left behind. There is a solution to this persistent division: where terrestrial networks are not available, satellites can bridge the divide.

Starting in 2020, OneWeb’s constellation will provide 375 Gbps of capacity to the Arctic, delivering high-speed, low-latency internet services before any other provider. With these new capabilities, the Arctic will finally be able to experience the same opportunities that areas below the 60th parallel North have been enjoying for years.

For many communities in the Arctic, reliable access to the internet will mean entering the digital economy at full speed. In some Arctic countries like Finland, internet connectivity is not only a priority but a basic human right. We want to see this opportunity and right extended to everyone – and so it is also OneWeb’s mission. We believe that everyone should be able to access and benefit from connectivity, to create opportunities for themselves and their communities. Our polar-orbiting constellation will provide the Arctic communities with the tools to do just that.

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