Northwestel plans to invest $233 million in its telecommunications network to provide northern Canadians with access to advanced Internet and wireless networks.

If the plan succeeds, 99 percent of northerners will enjoy 3G wireless services, which will enable access to the latest handsets, smartphones and tablets.

This also means at least 58 northern communities will be able to use Internet speeds two to three times faster than current service. This will be accomplished by upgrading existing wireline Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) and cable infrastructure.

Additionally, enhanced phone features including call display will be made available to all 96 communities in Northwestel's operating area, which includes the Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Yukon, northern British Columbia and High Level, Alberta.

The company said at least 84 percent of the northern population will have the choice of keeping existing phone numbers if they choose to switch to another service provider.

"The team at Northwestel is excited by the opportunity to implement this modernization plan and provide the communities we serve and our customers with an unprecedented level of service," said CEO, Paul Flaherty.

The modernization plan is before the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) for approval with public hearings scheduled for June 17, 2013, in Inuvik, Northwest Territories and June 19, 2013, in Whitehorse, Yukon.

The CRTC, in May 2011, announced that it was its goal to provide Internet speeds of at least 5 Mbps to all Canadians by 2015.

Private investments, government funding as well as public-private partnerships are being counted on to achieve that objective.

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