Several Cree communities in Quebec slated to get high speed internet by March

'These homes are going to have the fastest, or among the fastest, internet available anywhere in Canada,' said Matt Stein, CEO of Distributel.

Plan is to connect 14 communities in Eeyou Istchee and James Bay to modern fibre optic network

A news conference in Oujé-Bougoumau in November 2017, announcing the end of Eeyou Communications Network's phase two in its plan to connect 14 communities to a modern fibre optic telecommunications network. (Frédérique B. Chaput)

Residents in several communities in the James Bay region of Quebec will soon have access to high speed internet, phone and television services.

It's thanks to a partnership agreement announced Wednesday between the Cree-owned Eeyou Communications Network and Distributel.

"I would argue that these homes are going to have the fastest, or among the fastest, internet available anywhere in Canada," said Matt Stein, chief executive officer with the independent telecom service provider, Distributel.  

For Stein, the partnership is an important opportunity to bridge the "digital divide" and reduce service gaps in northern and remote communities.

"Canadians in the North have, for too long, had to tolerate wireless and satellite services that are spotty and poor quality. And have really had to tolerate a lesser experience on the internet."

Map of the Eeyou Communications Network. (Eeyou Communications Network)

The goal is to begin connecting 4,000 homes in eight communities by the end of March. The communities targeted in the first phase of residential service are Wemindji, Eastmain, Waskaganish, Waswanipi, Oujé-Bougoumou, Nemaska, Mistissini and Radisson.

"Delivering high speed internet, television and residential phone services over our fibre network in the North is an important first for Canada and a significant milestone for ECN," said Alfred Loon, president of Eeyou Communications Network, in a news release.

Eeyou Communications Network is a not-for-profit created in 2004 by the Cree Regional Authority.

Plan to connect 14 communities

"Fibre-to-the-Home" is the third phase of its plan to connect 14 communities in Eeyou Istchee and James Bay to a modern network at reasonable rates. This phase is partially financed by the federal government, the Cree Nation Government and Administration régionale Baie-James, according to the ECN website.

Loon says Distributel was a good choice for ECN to partner with as they understand the Quebec residential market and bring "substantial experience" in customer management systems and customer service.

The package that will be offered to Cree communities will include high speed internet with speeds up to 1 Gbps, as fast as anything in Montreal and Toronto, according to Stein, with Distributel.

The package will also include home phone with 12 features and long distance included, and a TV service of more than 100 channels from Canada, the U.S. and around the world.

The companies say they will be able to offer the services at prices comparable to similar residential services in Montreal and Quebec City.