Connected March 2011
Pathways to Technology is making strides across British Columbia. One of the program’s success stories is Blueberry River, where the installation of high-speed internet is changing the way the community does business, education and even entertainment.
Blueberry River is a small First Nations community of just over 400 people, located 45 minutes north of Fort St. John. Situated in BC’s oil and gas country, the community has long thrived as a member of Treaty 8 in the province’s north. However, the full potential of the region is only being realized now that access to the internet became available to every home in the community in February 2011.
In fact, the community had been targeted for an internet installation project in
the past, but where other proposals fell through, Pathways to Technology was able to step up and provide Blueberry River with the latest wireless high-speed broadband technology. By partnering with the Peace Region Internet Society (PRIS), the Pathways project ensured that multiple access points were installed throughout the community including the Administration office, and set up wireless internet receivers at no cost for any homes wishing to take advantage of high-speed internet.
"That takes the cost of having the Internet at home from a $400 investment down to a small monthly fee, like any other internet user in BC,” said Ruth Williams, Project Manager of Pathways to Technology. "It makes the Internet a more affordable option for people in Blueberry River.”
The new internet services are already allowing people in the community to access resources never before available in their remote location. From online banking to video communication, the opportunities are almost endless with high-speed internet access. Local school programs now have access to thousands of educational programs and benefits, giving class time a whole new dimension. Blueberry River businesses are benefiting too, by eliminating travel cost and time while expanding their reach through a few clicks of the mouse.
"This project has been a long time coming for this community. Before Pathways came to town, our only option was dial-up internet or taking the hour-long trip to town to go online,” said Blueberry First Nations administrator Lenora Blue. "We absolutely love having high-speed internet at home, business owners are raving about how fast and reliable it is, and even our school is connected – it is an awesome tool for the kids.”
Moving forward, Pathways to Technology will be working with the First Nations Health Council as part of their efforts to create a fully integrated First Nations clinical telehealth network in British Columbia. The people living in Blueberry River will soon be able to receive expanded services at the community’s new health centre, while having the benefit of remote appointments and consultations with specialists rather than travelling hundreds of kilometres.
Since the community was first connected, nearly a quarter of the homes and businesses have signed up for internet service – just the latest step in Pathways to Technology’s goal of connecting all of the First Nations in BC to the world.