Yes, but only in Whitehorse (and in Yellowknife and in Fort Nelson, B.C.), because those are NorthwesTel’s sole 3G networks.

But let’s back up: Why wouldn’t you have been able to use an iPhone in the Far North?

  • When you get right down to it, there is only one telephone company (and barely a couple of ISPs) in the territories. NorthwesTel, a Bell subsidiary, handles almost everything related to telephone, Internet, and cable and satellite TV in the three territories and in northern Alberta and British Columbia. But in some locations, the same service actually goes by the name Bell and there is a division of labour between parent company and subsidiary.

  • Cell networks use protocols incompatible with the iPhone, save for those three cities and towns.

  • Bandwidth and airtime are so expensive that the cost represents a direct threat to economic development in the North.

At any rate, yes, you can buy the iPhone 4S and use it in those three hotspots. (The iPhone 4 was previously available and presumably still is.) I found out this fact by reading a single Twit from NorthwesTel. But there was no mention of the iPhone at all on the official Web site, which assuredly is not the full name of the company plus .com (it’s NWTel.CA). Nor was there a press release. There was no indication at all that the 4S was available save for that single Twit.

So I called them up. Emily Younker later told me that Apple “has strict stipulations with their vendors about marketing. You would need to check with them for specifics.” I did that, asking Simon Atkins, Apple Canada’s media rep (and someone I knew in his former life as a freelance propagandist), what gave. I didn’t get an answer, but I hadn’t gotten my hopes up for one, either.

I called all three of the “retail stores” where one could actually get one’s hands on an iPhone, but only the Fort Nelson store answered its phone. And they do have posters and an info pillar up, along with flyers and the like, though “we’re not allowed to actually advertise [it] on our in-store TV,” the staffmember said. And yes, the 4S and the 4 are both “very, very popular.”

Why do I care? I find the North interesting, but mostly it’s because I love the idea of using an iPhone while walking down the street in Yellowknife space-age and charming. (It’s never warmer than “20” [nobody bothers saying “minus”] and the whole town’s out of milk until the next boat can make it across the lake, but, by God, I’ve got the same apps those assholes in Silicon Valley do!)

Essentially, then, I like the idea of Northern iPhone.

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2011.11.29 13:09. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:

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None. I quit.

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