Faster Internet to Transform First Nations Communities in Coastal British Columbia

Peter Lantin, president of the Council of Haida Nation says faster internet connections will make a huge impact for First Nations along the coast. Photo by Liza Yuzda

A $45 million investment to provide new and faster internet connections to 154 communities—including 44 First Nations—along the BC coast will be transformative for many First Nations communities.

Peter Lantin, President of Council of the Haida Nation says slow internet connections remain a fact of life for most rural and First Nations communities, hampering their ability to fully participate in the wired world.

“Today’s announcement will literally light up the coast. Communities will be able to receive and send information much faster than is possible now,” said Lantin in a media release after the announcement was made.

The investment comes from the Government of Canada in partnership with the Government of British Columbia, who state that access to high-speed internet is essential to participate in today’s digital economy. “Access to high-speed Internet is not a luxury; it’s essential,” said Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, Navdeep Bains. “High-speed Internet service is a basic tool that all Canadians should have access to, regardless of their postal code.”

A map shows the planned route of the Connected Coast fibre-optic cable. CityWest will lead the project in the north, while the Strathcona Regional District will lead the southern portion. Light-up is likely three years away.

The faster connections will make a significant difference in many First Nations communities by improving emergency services, telemedicine, and economic development opportunities. It will also vastly improve communication systems for marine preparedness and the monitoring of shipping and marine traffic transiting territorial waters.

The Coastal Guardian Watchmen are one group who will see an immediate positive impact from the faster internet speeds. Lantin says it will change their work lives. “We have more than 100 watchmen who patrol our territories each day. They gather data using IPads. Today, uploading the data can take between 1-3 hours each day. Faster connectivity is going to have an enormous impact on how they do their jobs.”

The investment includes new subsea fibre optic cable that will connect communities between Prince Rupert and Vancouver, as well as around Vancouver Island—a total of 3.5 million metres of cable. Thanks to this investment in high-capacity networks in remote and underserved communities, all British Columbians, including First Nations, will be able to fully participate in the digital economy.

Lantin says the improved broadband system will open up a whole new world to Coastal First Nations communities and commends Canada and British Columbia for being leaders in closing the connectivity gap. “Broadband connectivity will facilitate a greater sharing of our cultures by allowing schools to download large data files related to traditional use studies or cultural center historical materials.”

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Coastal First Nations say faster Internet will transform coastal communities