Ontario’s most northern remote First Nation has completed a broadband upgrade that has made a real impact. Everyday services are affected by broadband speeds, not just email and web browsing. Fort Severn First Nation is located 715km north of Sioux Lookout and uses satellite broadband for access to health care, education, justice, administration, and other services. Telemedicine, e-learning and video court are just a few examples of how the community accesses essential services without the need to fly to urban centres for appointments which can take days of travel.
The band office requires adequate broadband to upload administrative files, email reports, and complete banking and payroll. "I uploaded a file yesterday that took me over a half hour, today I can upload the same file in less than a minute”, says Community Projects Coordinator George Kakekaspan.
The satellite broadband upgrade will provide an increased service for the next five years and is funded by Connect to Innovate, the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation with support from Keewaytinook Okimakanak and K-Net. Chief Paul Burke is pleased. "Many months of work from a lot of people have made this bandwidth upgrade possible - thank you!"
Fort Severn is a member of a national satellite consortium (NICSN) and K-Net continues to work with the partners to find new solutions to maximize the satellite broadband available. Many of the partners have built fibre to their communities, however satellite remains the only feasible option for some remote First Nations.
Community technicians contribute to the maintenance of the community-owned broadband network including the internet to homes, businesses and service centres. The community also manages IP telephone, a local TV station and a public access E-Centre. Lyle Thomas has been keeping things going within the managed network and is excited, "everyone is telling me the internet is nice and fast now”, he says.
Communication with friends and family is also critical for the remote community. Community members keep in touch through social media and
chat, but video is difficult at home without a managed connection. Angus Miles is another experienced community technician and tried a video call. "With the bandwidth upgrade done today, I was finally able to video chat with my grandson."