Nestled in the scenic Skeena River valley, some 110 kilometres northeast of Terrace, the village of Gitsegukla (Kitsegukla) is home to more than 500 members of the Gitxsan First Nation.
Twice destroyed by rising waters, this resilient community has been in the region for hundreds of years - but only recently stepped into the digital age with Pathways’ installation of high-speed Internet.
For several years band council had been working toward a new online connection for the isolated community. The satellite service was not only very costly, but also prone to outages during inclement weather - a common occurance in British Columbia’s north.
TELUS initially supplied the community with a fibre optic point of presence at the band administration office through a deferral account-funded broadband service expansion. Then, in the fall of 2013, the Pathways team enlisted the help of Conuma Cable to overhaul the existing Gitsegukla cable plant to facilitate a broadband Internet signal.
Now, community members receive high-speed service through the connection already installed in their homes and businesses.
"In the past, the Internet bill at our band office was between $400-$600 a month for a weak signal and slow connection,” noted Gitsegukla Chief Clifford Sampare. "Now we’re only paying an average of $65 for a reliable and fast service.”
Local businesses have also taken advantage of the upgrade, with some operations cutting costs by as much as 80%. Now everything from inventory to finances can be done online - streamlining the way people in Gitsegukla work. The broadband improvements can even extend to those looking for employment, whether it be at home or in the local area.
"It’s very difficult for people to find work in this community, but I’ve already seen a difference since the arrival of the Internet,” said Sampare. "Band members are applying for jobs online and getting opportunities they never had before. It made me realize that the Internet isn’t just for social media and entertainment - it’s really helping.”
But perhaps the biggest impact has been at the Gitsegukla Elementary School. Each day the computer lab opens the door to educational resources from across the globe, providing children in the community with a skill set that generations before them could not have imagined.
"I was surprised that my grandson understands computers at just six years old - in fact all of my grandchildren know how to use them,” added Sampare. "I never knew that stuff until I was 40! It really is a big asset for our youth.”
With the power of a broadband connection behind them, the Gitsegukla First Nation is joining a world of online opportunities, and securing the future success of its community.