The CRTC’s recent rulings on Northwestel, contribution and independent telcos each underscore the importance of ensuring that all Canadians have access to advanced and competitive communications services – regardless of where they live. Providing residents of Watson Lake YK with the same level of services as people in Vancouver requires interventionist policies and regulations that help achieve this goal. Northern governments have also taken proactive steps in the past few years to help bring its communities into the new information age. The Connect Yukon program is one such example. Premier Pat Duncan, who also doubles as the territory’s economic development minister, highlighted her government’s initiatives at a recent IT conference in Whitehorse. Below is an edited excerpt from her speech. We, like other northern jurisdictions, have some challenges to address in developing and supporting this industry’s growth. The size of our population, small customer base, distances between communities and cost of infrastructure are a few of those challenges. We also have inequalities among access for communities. Often municipal and First Nation governments face high prohibitive long distance costs to access the Internet. Community concerns include the high-cost for activities like on-line training and surfing the net. Some of our challenges are also our advantages. We are small enough that we can identify what is needed to support the industry. We are fortunate in that we know where and when improvements are being made. This gives us a key advantage when planning for what is needed to help the industry grow. We are also fortunate in that we have resources right here in the Yukon. The government’s Technology and Telecommunications branch is dedicated to research and work with the diverse technology and telecommunications interests in the Yukon. Through partnership projects, such as Connect Yukon, we are improving information infrastructure development and promoting technology partnerships. This project is primarily designed to upgrade the backbone telecommunications network throughout the territory and will provide increased opportunities for local business expansion.  Contrary to what you may have heard it is not about telephones. It will improve the ability of the territory-wide network to carry digital data traffic and provide high-speed Internet access. At the same time, the upgraded infrastructure will allow these services to be available to more Yukoners by expanding the network’s capacity.Other initiatives Our government has committed to initiate the development of an e-commerce and e-government strategic plan over the next four years. It will look at the rules we have in place and at government’s role as a user of technology. We are also in the process of establishing an E-commerce Competency Centre within our government. It will essentially start out as a working group of multi-departmental representatives brought together to coordinate government activity in the area of e-commerce and e-government. Yukon on-line, a private sector/YTG partnership initiative, has provided valuable local Internet server services to Watson Lake, Haines Junction and Dawson. "Train the Trainer" programs are in development by the Council of Yukon First Nations. The Community Access Program, the Gates Foundation and Vol-net have contributed a significant number of public access computers in libraries and similar locations. The new multimedia training centre developed by the government, Yukon College and Northwestel will help meet business demand for skilled workers in one of the fastest growing fields in the computer industry. The Yukon Technology Innovation Centre and the Yukon Entrepreneurship Centre are also contributing to IT growth in the territory. By sharing information and identifying needs and opportunities together we can build greater appreciation of the existing Yukon IT industry and the potential of an e-commerce economy.