Thunder Bay

Pikangikum First Nation gets broadband from SpaceX Starlink

A remote community in northwestern Ontario may be the first community in the country to get hooked up to SpaceX Starlink broadband internet.
A chartered plane carries boxes of hardware destined for Pikangikum First Nation. The hardware will be used to connect the community to the SpaceX Starlink broadband internet. (FSET/Twitter)

A remote community in northwestern Ontario may be the first community in the country to get hooked up to SpaceX Starlink broadband internet.

The community's 15 offices and businesses are now connected to broadband, after installations took place with Kenora's FSET Information Technology and Services.

"It really is a copy (and) paste in terms of what's needed to be done here," said David Brown, the CEO of FSET.

"It's simply a matter of making those arrangements to purchase, service the equipment, and everyone else can do what Pikangikum has done." 

Internet connectivity is poor in many remote communities in northwestern Ontario. Brown said this technology has the possibility to change that.

He said originally, his company was tasked with setting up better internet service in Pikangikum.

"At a point after a few months, we tried a different approach," he said, noting traditional service through wires, just wasn't working. So, he reached out to SpaceX regarding its low-orbit satellite internet.

"Eventually, I was put in touch with an individual that was very interested, wanted to hear this story and the challenges that they were having. He took that back, and advocated on their behalf for approval to be one of the first Starlink users of SpaceX technology."

Brown said the community was slated for beta testing, but timing delays meant the community is having its hardware installed as the service is becoming available to early adopters.

"It really is as advertised. It's everything they say it is and more. Within the first 15, 20 minutes of being in the community, we were able to get to the first site, unbox the unit, plug it in outside, test it, and we were doing video conferencing call between Pikangikum and me, here in Kenora."

Brown said the opportunity the high-speed broadband offers to remote communities is like nothing seen before. He said especially during the pandemic, the ability to videoconference will allow community members to stay at home, and not have to travel for appointments.

He said it was amazing how interested SpaceX was in ensuring a remote community, with about 2,000 members, had the best access available.

"You're dealing with a company like SpaceX that's incredibly large and incredibly successful, and doing some amazing things."

"Everybody came together in the community to do something special here."

"I'm incredibly impressed that it's everything it's built to be, and more."


Jeff Walters

Former CBC reporter

Born and raised in Thunder Bay, Jeff worked in his hometown, as well as throughout northwestern Ontario.