A bit more digging has turned up a CBC story from December 2010 that first reported Nalcor’s plan to include fibre optic cabling with the Labrador-Island Link for Muskrat Falls.
CBC reported that “Nalcor will use some of this [fibre optic] capacity. The rest will be for sale to companies like Bell Aliant.”
For some reason, though, that option has vanished from any public discussion. The only reference to fibre optics in the submission to the public utilities board was to a system that would do nothing more than allow for Nalcor’s control of the transmission system. That doesn’t appear to take up all the fibre optic capacity that is planned or that could be included in the LIL.
The sale of fibre optic capacity to private sector companies could deliver high speed Internet service to some parts of Labrador more cheaply than current arrangements. It could also be a source of new revenue to both Nalcor and to Emera. The Nova Scotia company has a minority interest in the LIL project separate from its interest in the Maritime Link.
Curiously enough, in 2010, the provincial government cancelled a request for proposals issued in 2007 for management of a high speed internet system in the province. In January 2010, cabinet cancelled the tender, citing escalating costs.
A report by the province’s auditor general in January 2011 included this comment from the province’s innovation department:
Feasibility and Status of Line to Labrador
The department views network connections to Labrador as a priority and an essential part of advancing broadband infrastructure in the province. INTRD remains committed to finding a feasible way to achieve this goal. In this regard, discussions have been ongoing between INTRD and Nalcor Energy on ways to achieve Labrador-related GBI objectives.