Indigenous company to bring high-speed internet to all of Manitoba's First Nations communities
$4.2M in funding coming from federal government for internet project
An Indigenous company is working to bring high-speed internet to all of Manitoba's 63 First Nations communities.
Currently, people in those communities are paying $100 a month on average for internet through a satellite provider.
"Manitoba is one of the last jurisdictions in Canada that does not have adequate connectivity," said Jonathan Fleury, the project manager for the Manitoba First Nations Technology Council (MFNTC).
The council received $4.2 million in federal funding to connect even the most remote and isolated First Nations communities to high-speed internet.
Fleury said this funding will pay for the planning and engineering phase of the project, which will be completed by March 2017.
Within 10 years, the group will install 3,600 kilometres of fibre optic cable across the province, he said.
"It is a challenge because Manitoba has different terrain," said Fleury. "We have boreal forest, Canadian Shield, we have tundra, so we have to take that into account when planning."
The MFNTC's network will build onto existing infrastructure already in place by Manitoba Hydro.
Fleury said once the network is in place, the First Nations communities can decide if they want to bring in a service provider like Shaw or MTS, or create their own company, which would generate revenue for the communities.
The network will also service 183 other communities and municipalities in Manitoba.
Fisher River Cree Nation Chief, David Crate, said he is proud that a First Nations company is doing this work.
"It basically shows the advancement in our business development," said Crate, a co-chair of MFNTC. "We are looking at a whole scope of services for our members to enhance the lives of our people."
Crate said in the long run, better internet connections will save the federal government money, particularly with the increased ability to use telemedicine and other online health-related services.
"If they have to fly back to Winnipeg, there is a substantial cost in doing that."