Judith Hughes is the VP student services at Athabasca University, an online post-secondary institution in Alberta. She told the recent Broadband Canada conference about the need for backbone to assist electronic learning. Here is an edited version of her remarks. For decades distance education (now often referred to as distributed learning) has provided access to university education to individuals who would not otherwise have access to this level of learning. Twenty years ago, to serious university providers, this meant providing learning materials in print form and enhancing this with Socratic tutorial support, often by telephone. In Canada these distance education opportunities were provided by Athabasca University (AU). Before 1995 AU’s catchment area was primarily Alberta and, to a lesser extent, western Canada. As access to the Internet grew AU added a variety of electronic enhancements and learners began to find the university on the web. Electronic enhancements have enriched the distance education experience without a doubt. Electronic library resources, asynchronous threaded discussions, on-line student evaluation, learning objects in the form of streaming video, animated models and so on, have all increased the extent to which distributed learning can provide a rich learning environment. Clearly, learners in remote areas have as much right to this experience as their urban counterparts. In fact, they may have a greater right since they do not have the access to traditional learning opportunities enjoyed by those in major cities. The reality is that in remote areas such as the circumpolar regions of the world judicious application of technology to learning must be guided by the quality and reliability of infrastructure and the cultural milieu in which the learning will take place. Athabasca has learned this lesson in serving students in Canada’s north as well as by virtue of its involvement with the University of the Arctic, a consortium of universities representing all of the circumpolar countries. In the end, focusing on the "soft technologies" works. In both instances flexibility is the key. Two manifestations of this will assist the work of Athabasca University and the University of the Arctic. These are program delivery via a portal approach and the development of learning object repositories. Clearly, for people in isolated areas to benefit from technological enhancements of the learning process, access to broadband connectivity is required within their communities. This is the means by which they can achieve the end of equity of educational opportunity. Without this access these people will be marginalized as technological enhancements improve the educational experience. As a catchphrase, "digital divide" will not adequately describe the inequity that will actually become a digital chasm. Apart from the equity arguments, there are other imperatives for strengthening northern infrastructure. These include research about sustainable development, environmental protection, global warming, to mention some important areas. Moreover, governments and industry should care about international commerce, national sovereignty rights in the north and so forth. The following represents a list of actions that could significantly address the issue of access outlined in this paper: a comprehensive survey of infrastructure in place in remote areas; investment in developing learning object repositories to assist educators; support for research in remote areas because this informs teaching; support for educational providers that can meet the needs of people in remote areas; support for education research to address the particular needs of northerners; support for activities aimed a circumpolar issues (e.g. University of the Arctic). Business and governments can make significant contributions to addressing the equity issues outlined in this paper.