Equal provincial and federal investments into infrastructure and a partnership with a local Internet service provider will mean every home in Kahnawake will be able to have access to high-speed Internet by September 2022, project organizers announced in a major event Wednesday morning at the Kahnawake Sports Complex.
“This is a momentous day for the community,” said First Nations Fibre director of operations Kameron Lahache. “This will change the digital landscape of our community. There will be fast, reliable Internet access to everyone in our community.”
Despite its proximity to Montreal, high-speed Internet access is not available to every home in the community at present. Through the installation of 300 km of fibre-optic cable, Lahache said, every home in the community will be able to get access to the network, whether it’s through First Nations Fibre (who were known as First Nations Wireless prior to Lahache announcing they had changed names to better reflect their service offerings).
“Due to the limitations of technology, we were way behind. Now, every single business, every single house will have access to a locally created, locally managed and locally maintained Internet network,” he said. “We couldn’t be more excited.”
The network came about thanks to a joint $94 million investment split equally between the federal government and the provincial government -- $47 million each, to provide all homes throughout Quebec, including Kahnawake, with high-speed internet by September 2022.
Provincial Indigenous Affairs Minister Ian Lafreniere said the importance of connecting First Nations communities to high-speed Internet is of the utmost importance for students, medical appointments and business.
“In 2021, this is more than important. This is vital. The importance of education, access to medical services and in business if you’re not connected with high-speed Internet, you’re going to have a hard time competing and that’s why this is so important,” Lafreniere said.
With only one in four First Nations homes connected in Quebec, Lafreniere said the question of getting high-speed Internet access to the three-quarters is of primordial importance.
“It’s important for Quebec, but it’s as important for Indigenous people and communities,” he said adding satellites might have to be used to cover remote northern communities.
Federal Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller said it’s long past time for governments on every level to help bridge the infrastructure gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities – and that includes Internet access.
“In terms of housing, in terms of clean drinking water and general infrastructure, we have a lot of work ahead of us,” Miller said, adding that only 31 percent of First Nations communities across Canada have high-speed Internet access. Soon, that number will include all of Kahnawake.
“This is a resilient community,” he said, adding that connecting communities with solid partnerships such as the one with First Nations Fibre, will bear fruit for Indigenous Peoples across Canada.
“This is a solid partnership, and one, going forward, will be able to help service vulnerable populations and is part of our reconciliation with Indigenous people,” he said.
Marc Lalonde, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Iori:wase