One of the latest communities to achieve connectivity is Homalco 9, located on Vancouver Island approximately 10 kilometres south of Campbell River. With a staple industry of salmon fishing for hundreds of years, the Homalco First Nation is now exploring hydro-electric power and eco-tourism as a new wave of business ventures for the band.
The first step toward a high-speed Internet connection for Homalco came in the spring of 2011, when the Pathways to Technology team engaged with the community about its needs. This community planning stage identified an existing cable television infrastructure that could be upgraded to deliver broadband service throughout the community – a first for the project.
This led to an innovative dual solution for how best to connect Homalco. The band office has been directly connected with a TELUS fiber-optic line while the local cable television service with Conuma Cable has been retrofitted to ensure each home in the community will be able to send and receive an Internet signal through their cable line, similar to services in many metropolitan BC cities.
This example highlights the complexity of the project in coordinating between several telecommunications providers to delivering connectivity to communities.
"By providing broadband cable to every house in Homalco, we are delivering a reliable, high-speed connection to a community that in the past was reliant on slow dial-up Internet – despite being so close to a major urban center,” said Jamie Sterritt, the Pathways project’s Community Relations Officer.
"Through our partnership with Conuma Cable, we have been able to link this entire community with existing underground cables, eliminating the need for overhead lines and dozens of utility poles,” he added.
There are also benefits for Homalco’s new health centre, which opened this past summer. The 11-room facility offers programs such as Community Health Nursing, Aboriginal Diabetes Initiative, Home and Community Care, as well as services to children, youth and adults.
Now, with the addition of a high-speed Internet connection, the health centre will be able to partner with the First Nations Health Council as part of their efforts to create a fully-integrated First Nations clinical telehealth network in British Columbia, and expand its programs to include state of the art treatments and services.
"Our community members are thrilled about the Pathways project work for our community ,” said Alison Trenholm, Homalco First Nation’s Band Manager. "Now our people will be able to access a world of online resources from right at home – not to mention the endless benefits for our band office and brand new health centre.”
The new Internet services provided by the Pathways to Technology project are already allowing people in the community to access resources never before available from the comfort of their homes and offices. With online health and business opportunities now on the horizon, Homalco is just another example of how the Pathways project is bridging the digital divide across British Columbia.