Five remote First Nations communities in northwestern Ontario are one step closer to getting high-speed internet, but leaders continue to push for a fully-funded service, equivalent to the rest of the province.

In Eabametoong, 385 kilometres northeast of Thunder Bay, the current satellite-based internet service is so slow, residents have to wait until the wee hours of the morning so enough bandwidth becomes available to do things like check Facebook, said Wayne Slipperjack, the cable manager for Eabametoong Communications Inc.

"There are some people who do stay up late at night and that's when the high speed does kick in, (at) about two or three o'clock in the morning," he said.

Eabametoong 1

Eabametoong Communications's Wayne Slipperjack says people have to wait until the wee hours of the morning in order to get enough bandwidth to do things like check Facebook. He says things like business and health care are severely impacted due to slow internet during the day. (Jody Porter / CBC)

More critically for the community, the unreliable internet also interferes with key functions, such as health care and business transactions.

"The band office... they require a lot of reporting to funding agencies and it takes them all day or maybe even a couple of days to upload a one megabyte file," he said.

A broadband communications working group with Matawa First Nations Management announced Thursday that the federal government has committed some funding to proceed to the design phase of a project aimed at bringing basic broadband internet into local homes.

Work to upgrade internet service is being planned for Nibinamik, Webequie, Neskantaga, Eabametoong and Marten Falls, according to Matawa.

While the group welcomes the funding, the communities continue to push senior levels of government for money needed to construct the new system, the tribal council said in a Thursday press release, especially in light of some rural communities in southwestern Ontario already moving on to ultra-high speed internet with the help of government funding.

Officials with Matawa say the plan is to have some of the remote communities hooked up to basic broadband by summer, 2017.

The total cost of the project is estimated at $60 million, according to Matawa.


  • A previous version of this story stated the total cost of the project is estimated at $4.028 million. That was based on information from Matawa First Nations Management. Matawa subsequently provided corrected information, that stated the planning and design is estimated at $4.028 million, the project's total costs are $60 million.
    Sep 16, 2016 1:27 PM ET