Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Northern Health turns to Starlink to reduce risk, add resiliency to internet connectivity at Northwest Health care facilities

An image of the Starlink train from
Northern Health has recently installed receivers at health care
facilities across the Northwest to access the internet from the service

The Information Technology department of Northern Health is in the process of adding an additional layer of protection towards their access to the Internet.

That as the Health Services provider for the region outlines how they have added the Starlink Satellite Internet Service to their facilities across the Northwest and on into the rest their health care facilities.

The move to the additional service provider comes following a number of recent incidents when unexpected outages caused by wildfires, or other weather related incidents left the Northern Health IT service disrupted in recent years.

"Installing this technology will help reduce risk by improving the resiliency of our network to make sure services stay available in the event of wildfire or other disaster,” --  James Uhrich, Director of Technology and Information Security, Northern Health.

If you've looked up into a clear sky at night, you likely have seen the Starlink train pass overhead, a rather impressive site, though one which can be startling enough to get folks thinking about UFO's from time to time.

The company led by Elon Musk has been making significant progress in their project, continuing to launch satellites into the atmosphere to deliver services to larger and larger swaths of earth. provides an expansive look at Mr. Musk's Starlink  iniitative here.

The Northwest section of the Global Starlink Coverage map
(image from

As Northern Health notes, the project of creating the additional link has been a challenging one, a process which began over the summer.

The project to deploy this technology on which is considered a big endeavour. With a team of Northern Health network analysts working with a contractor for the on-site installation. 

The project launched on July 11th, as a group of Northern Health IT staff (from the network, application and project management teams) worked remotely late into the night for 10 nights to implement the service and stay ahead of the wildfire risk in that area. 

At the same time, a team of two or three travelled to each community, with the rest of the team meeting virtually to complete the installation.

Jean-Paul Verleyen,  a Network analyst with Northern Health
with some of the Starlink satellite project equipment
(image from NH)

“The team would install, verify the installation, and confirm with the site leaders that everything worked before moving on to the next site. The process was not without its hiccups, we had to go back to one site, but overall, it was successful,” --  James Uhrich, Director of Technology and Information Security, Northern Health.

As Northern health explains it, generally for their use, Starlink is a backup network. However, they note that with the addition of intuitive technology known as SD-wan,  the new network will have the ability to choose which path is used, based on the best performance.  

As they observe, sometimes Starlink will outperform the current network, so the network will use the faster path of connection. 

To this point of their installation program, Starlink has been implemented in Vanderhoof, Fort St. James, Fraser Lake, Burns Lake, Hazelton, Kitimat, Terrace, Prince Rupert, and Houston. 

The next communities for implementation are on Haida Gwaii and then the project team will expand from there.

CityWest and their partners in the Connected Coast project are striving to provide for their own redundancy for internet service to the region. 

That project remains under construction and once completed would route the internet into the North Coast and  along the Highway 16 corridor from a connection from Vancouver. The service will travel along their fibre system connection  on Vancouver Island, Haida Gwaii and through undersea cables.

Connected Coast anticipates completion of their project sometime in 2024

The adoption of the Starlink service by Northern Health offers up a glimpse at how changing technology is shifting the scope  of the communications industry in Canada.  

It will also likely catch the eye of other industrial, commercial and even residential users across the Northwest, who will be looking over the Starlink prospectus to see if their services meet their particular needs.

More notes related to Northern Health can be reviewed here.

A look at the  progress for the CityWest led Connected Coast program can be explored here

Further notes on the City of Prince Rupert owned communication company can be reviewed here.


  1. Our tax dollars are now lining the pockets of billionaires like Musk, because our tax dollars aren't working fast enough on infrastructure projects like the connected coast project.

  2. Satellite systems are global - serving a population of 7 billion. An undersea fibre cable on the Northern BC Coast - serves maybe 70,000 people. Do the math. That's 100,000x times smaller. Connected Coast is not moving slowly.