The future is now for three remote First Nation communities in northern BC.
Telegraph Creek, Dease Lake and Eddontenajon all now have access to high-speed Internet.
“There’s all kinds of good things that come out of this,” said Tahltan First Nation Chief Rick McLean. “We’ve been running off an outdated 15-year-old system here in Telegraph Creek.”
Before this latest upgrade the community only had two options – dial-up or satellite. Both had issues with capacity, speed and reliability.
“In its early days it was the latest and greatest,” said McLean. “But as you know, technology grows outdated fairly quickly, but now hopefully we’re up to speed.”
With the increase in both speed and reliability, the community should now have better access to health-care services, online education opportunities and could provide a boon to businesses that rely on technology, said McLean.
For a place like Telegraph Creek, which is a nine-hour drive away from the nearest sizable town, there are other considerations.
“I think it’s going to help with our ability to use social media a lot more effectively,” said McLean.
The high-speed connections are thanks to the Pathways to Technology project, a partnership between the All Nations Trust Company and Northwestel.
“The Pathways project is an important stride towards closing the socio-economic gap between rural First Nations and the rest of British Columbians,” said Ruth Williams, ANTCO’s chief executive officer.
The $40.8-million project was started in 2010.
So far it’s managed to hook up 16 isolated communities to broadband Internet service in BC.
Over the next three to five years, the ANTCO expects to connect another 50 remote First Nation communities across the province.
While the new high-speed connection will capture most people in Telegraph Creek, not all of the 350 residents will be able to hook up to it.
There are some people who live on the periphery of the community that are too far away to connect to the system, said McLean.
“The only drawback to this system is you have to be within four kilometres of Northwestel’s receiver building,” he said. “There are some people that live up on the hill that fall out of range, but they may be able to boost it in the future.
Not that he’s complaining.
“I think we may be ahead of a lot of places with this technology,” he said. “We’ve been really pleased with the service so far.”
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