The addition of high-speed Internet to a First Nations village provides benefits beyond simple web browsing, and can actually help bring a community’s economy to life. That’s exactly the case in Gitanyow, located 140 kilometres northeast of Terrace just off Highway 37.
For several years the community had only limited access to Internet technology – and it was an unreliable and costly connection. With the help of the Pathways to Technology project, the community’s former cable television network, mothballed since the 1990s when satellite TV came in, was completely transformed to carry a broadband signal to every home in Gitanyow.
"The Pathways to Technology upgrade breathed new life into our aging infrastructure,” said Mark Starlund, Gitanyow’s Chief Councillor. "We built off of the existing system and then expanded the cable network into the new sub-divisions and businesses in our growing community.”
Now that the physical upgrades are complete, the Gitanyow Economic Development Corporation has taken the lead in managing the village’s new broadband resource – keeping the business run entirely within the community. Band members Isaac Rush and Esmond Mercer trained with the Pathways team, and are now monitoring the system, completing new connections, performing maintenance, and exploring options for providing service in neighbouring communities such as Gitwangak and Gitsegukla.
"In a matter of weeks we have gone from 30 subscribers with the old system, to 90 homes signed up for the new high-speed service, so clearly the response in the community has been great,” added Starlund. "The customer base is big enough for our operation to be profitable, which will allow us to fund more upgrades and roll-out new services down the road.”
From the band’s elementary school, to the band office and health centre, all of the existing infrastructure available to local residents has received a boost from the addition of high-speed Internet. Soon online adult education courses will be available through Northwest Community College and Thompson Rivers University – providing Gitanyow residents with an interactive connection to distance education courses and online skills and trades training.
"Our Internet service is now as good, if not better, than any other communities in the province – and that will help us attract new projects and businesses to Gitanyow,” Starlund noted. "On a technology level, we’ve finally entered the 21st century and are ready to grow as a community.”
Posted: April 3, 2013