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Getting Communities Broadband FIT

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Ensuring that all 203 First Nations communities in British Columbia have access to reliable high-speed Internet service is a huge, complex project that has never been attempted in this country – until now. The hard work of many organizations was rewarded when, in 2009, the provincial and federal governments granted $40.8 million to All Nations Trust Company (ANTCO) to manage the Pathways to Technology project and deliver a Canadian first for First Nations People in BC. 

The project’s steering committee includes ANTCO, the First Nations Technology Council and the First Nations Health Council.

 

There are three major components to the Pathways to Technology project, each with a key role in the project’s ultimate success.

  1. Physical construction of the broadband network to bring Internet    capability to each community.
  2. The physical, technical and administrative work required to make the Internet accessible to individual homes, offices, schools and other users.
  3. Community training and support programs to give new users the online skills they need to enjoy the full benefits of the Internet, including in-community training, train-the-trainer programs and help desks.

Perhaps the most important feature of the Pathways to Technology project is its comprehensive community consultation process. The Pathways team works with each participating community through every step of the project’s lifecycle – from identifying the priority community needs for Internet connection, through the construction and installation phase, to finally activating the broadband service.

There is no competitive application process or complex technical proposals required from communities to participate in the Pathways project. The project rolls out directly to communities in need based on an established protocol endorsed by the project’s steering committee.

In late 2007, a wide cross-section of First Nations and government technology, health, education and cultural groups came together to form the Fully Integrated Technologies (FIT) Partners Working Group. Part of the work completed by the FIT Partners Group included an assessment of communities in need of Internet connectivity or service upgrades. 

The Pathways to Technology project team is using this independent analysis to plan the project’s roll-out across the province. Simply put, the communities identified by FIT as having the highest priority for connectivity are those with little to no Internet access or those communities which can gain most from upgraded Internet service. 

After establishing connectivity in high priority communities, the Pathways project will proceed in a strategic manner to link other communities utilizing existing telecommunications infrastructure where possible and building out the provincial network as necessary.

This consultative and strategic approach ensures that this complex project will be completed in the shortest possible time and reach the most communities possible within the project’s budget.  

Posted: May 18, 2011