The 900 people living in the Lil'wat Nation subdivision of Xet'olacw, near Mount Currie, can finally pull the plug on their old dial-up Internet service now that high-speed broadband has finally reached the community.
Xet'olacw is the latest First Nations community to have their school, health centre, homes and businesses connected to high-speed Internet as part of Pathways to Technology, a $48.8 million provincewide First Nations connectivity project managed by the All Nations Trust Company (ANTCO), with funding from the Government of Canada, through Health Canada and Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, and the government of B.C.
The Lil'wat Nation, located just 30 minutes from Whistler, gained huge exposure on the world stage as one of the Four Host First Nations of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, yet it remained stuck in the technological dark ages struggling with outdated, unreliable and expensive Internet service.
Today, the new high-speed broadband connection gives the band's health centre the necessary bandwidth to partner with the First Nations Health Authority to run cutting-edge e-Health and telehealth technologies, such as remote consultations with medical specialists.
Emergency response in the community will also see an overhaul. In the past, 9-1-1 calls were dispatched some 18 kilometres away to Pemberton and then rerouted to the local fire hall. With the upgraded system, calls from residents will now go directly to local emergency services officials, significantly decreasing response time.
The service upgrade has also created a unique business opportunity for the Lil'wat Nation. Acting as its own Internet Service Provider (ISP), the band will manage the broadband service and generate new revenue as community members sign up. Interest has been strong, and it is anticipated that by mid-April about 150 of the 250 homes will be connected, with additional homes to come online as work progresses. In other First Nations' communities connected by the Pathways to Technology project, the local subscription rate typically reaches as high as 80 to 100 per cent.
The objective of the multi-year Pathways to Technology project is to connect or enhance high-speed Internet connectivity in remote First Nations communities in British Columbia that currently have no Internet access or only limited service. Reliable high-speed Internet access will help support opportunities for education, health care, culture, and economic development for First Nations people.
Ben Stewart, Minister of Citizens' Services and Open Government -
"I'd like to congratulate the people living in the Lil'wat Nation community of Xit'olacw near Mount Currie, ANTCO, and all those involved for their hard work to bring broadband Internet service to this community. This new service will not only benefit families by providing better access to health and educational services, but will also open the door to new opportunities for local businesses."
Ruth Williams, CEO, All Nations Trust Company -
"Access to affordable high-speed Internet is an important step towards closing the social and economic gap that exists in British Columbia between First Nations and other communities. It's basic infrastructure that is taken for granted elsewhere in the province. Now the same web technology is available to Aboriginal people for health care, job training and education, or simply doing their online banking."
Chief Lucinda Phillips, Lil'wat Nation -
"We are pleased to finally be able to offer the citizens of the Lil'wat Nation this essential service. Broadband connectivity has been a community priority for years and will support us in our educational, social, cultural and economic development initiatives moving forward. Connecting our health centre, emergency operations, elementary and high school and businesses will allow us to look at innovative and creative ways to serve our members."
- The Pathways to Technology project was previously funded through $23.3 million from the Province, $17.5 million from Health Canada, and $8 million from Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada's First Nations Infrastructure Fund.
- ANTCO has contracted with TELUS, Northwestel, Conuma Cable, and other private telecommunication providers to deliver the necessary infrastructure and expertise to overcome the geographic and logistical challenges of connecting remote and rural First Nations communities.
- In addition to funding the construction of the broadband infrastructure network, the Pathways to Technology project has established a $5-million Capacity Building Fund, delivered by the First Nations Technology Council, to provide training and support programs to give communities and new users the online technical skills they need to capitalize on the full benefits of the Internet.
- Currently, 93 per cent of British Columbians have access to a wired high-speed or broadband Internet connection, and 177 of 203 First Nations communities already have some Internet access, making B.C. one of the most connected jurisdictions in the world.
For more information on ANTCO and the Pathways project: www.PathwaysToTechnology.ca
For more information on Network BC: http://www.cio.gov.bc.ca/cio/networkbc/index.page
For more information on the Lil'wat Nation: www.lilwat.ca
Following the event, photos from today's community celebration will be available online on the government of B.C.'s Flickr account: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bcgovphotos
Ministry of Citizen's Services and Open Government
Pathways to Technology
Director of Economic Development and Lil'wat Business
604 894 6115 ext 2239