Thursday, June 21, 2018

The Special Senate Committee on the Arctic Holds a Hearing on Northern Infrastructure & That "Unlicensed" Inuvik Groundstation

         By Chuck Black

After well over two years, the new, private sector commercial ground station built by Inuvik, NWT based New North Networks for San Francisco, CA based Planet and Norwegian based Kongsberg Satellite Services (KSAT) and profiled multiple times in this blog, has still not received the second of two sets of Federal government approvals needed to operate under Canadian law.

Tom Zubco in Ottawa at the Special Senate Committee on the Arctic on Monday, June 18th, 2018. To see the complete presentation, please click on this link. Graphic c/o SenVu.

It's gotten so bad that the Canadian Senate has become involved. On Monday, the Special Senate Committee on the Arctic held hearings to consider the "significant and rapid changes to the arctic," and how those changes have impacted the original inhabitants.

Among the speakers was New North Networks CEO Tom Zubko.

Most of what Zubko discussed has been previously discussed in this blog, most notably in the May 31th, 2018 post, "Inuvik Mayor Calls Feds "Not Forthcoming" Regarding Private Sector Commercial Ground Station Application," the March 5th, 2018 post, "That Commercial Ground Station Built by New North Networks in Inuvik Still Can't be Used" and the June 15th, 2017 post, "Telesat Supports Defence Budget But Inuvik Left Out & Teledyne Dalsa Employee Convicted of Selling Satellite Data to China."

But a few items are worth repeating, most notably Zubko's statement that the real problem might be related to the capabilities of Global Affairs Canada (GAC), the Federal government department tasked with negotiating the second licence on behalf of Natural Resources Canada (NRCan), which is needed in order for the Inuvik ground station built by New North Networks to begin operation.

Zubko referenced two mandated reviews of the Remote Sensing Space Systems Act (the Federal legislation under which GAC issues licences for satellite ground stations), authored by the Institute of Air and Space Law at McGill University in 2012 and 2017. Both reviews called the GAC "understaffed" and lacking in process, with no defined time frame to report and no defined check list of requirements needing to be fulfilled in order to insure that a licence is issued.

According to Zubko, "well over $50Mln" has so far been invested in building the infrastructure required to support the Inuvik ground station, plus another $100Mln CDN to support the infrastructure needed to transfer the data to clients sites, and those funds are in danger of being lost because of the delay in issuing the second licence required to operate the ground station.

There was also a troubling discussion focused around Planet and KSAT concerns over providing proprietory data to Colorado based Maxar Technologies through it's Canadian based MDA subsidiary, which currently (in conjunction with NRCan) has a contract to operate another Inuvik Satellite Station Facility, which the Federal government seemed to prefer to run contracts through.,

According to Zubko, "we have a lot of advantages which are being wasted because of licencing delays" and a legislative situation which is "not condusive" to investment in Canada.

Committee members in attendance included Senator Dennis Glen Patterson Chair (Conservative - Nunavut), Senator Patricia Bovey deputy chair (Independent Senators Group - Manitoba), Senator Mary Coyle (Independent Senators Group - Nova Scotia Antigonish) and Senator Paul McIntyre (Conservative - New Brunswick).

Kanata ON based First Air president and CEO Brock Friesen as also in attendance and gave a presentation.

The full video of the June 18th, 2018 Special Senate Committee on the Arctic committee meeeting is available online here.
Chuck Black.

Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog.

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