It's now full speed ahead for the Lil'wat Nation with broadband Internet now available for the whole of the Mount Currie reserve.
Chief Lucinda Phillips said they had been trying to arrange high-speed Internet for the Xit'olacw subdivision of the reserve, home to the Mount Currie Health Centre and the Xit'olacw Community School, for the last six years.
By mid-April about 150 of the 250 homes in the community will be connected.
"Our members have been bugging me about getting high-speed up to the new subdivision because we have had it in the lower communities for a few years," said Phillips. "As well, the health centre and the K to (Grade) 12 school were both impacted."
Firefighting has also been positively impacted by the change; the previously rerouted system meant that Mount Currie's fire service got emergency callouts three minutes slower than they now do with the new system, potentially putting lives at risk.
"And beyond that it has opened up a lot more opportunities. We have our language on the Internet site called First Voices, and now the kids can play the games and apps online. And we're encouraging our kids to check out our traditional territories online," Phillips said.
Business opportunities for Lil'wat members who want to work from home are also now possible.
Rachel Andrew-Nelson, director of community health services for the Lil'wat Nation, said the health centre had received high-speed Internet first, and for its 20 staff this was imperative. It now allows for remote consultations with medical specialists.
"We can also do online training now that we didn't have the capability to do before. We can now use educational videos on health websites or YouTube and that has allowed people to do their jobs better," Andrew-Nelson said. "We were using the 3G sticks and that got really costly for a while and we had to be careful how we used them, so we're very glad that has changed."
They have also just set up their video-conferencing equipment, she said, and are taking part in their first health workshop videoconference taking place at the University of British Columbia this week.
"That's very, very useful for us," she said. "It makes a world of difference for us to do our job."
One of the most significant aspects of the change to high-speed broadband is that an arms-length corporation of the band will sell the services to the community members.
"We sell to the members and it's an income generator," Phillips said.
The broadband system has been installed with the help of Pathways to Technology, a $48.8 million province-wide program to connect First Nations communities to high-speed broadband technology. It is run by the All Nations Trust Company, with funding from the Health Canada, Aboriginal Affairs and Network BC.
Ruth Williams, CEO of the All Nations Trust Company, said around 83 per cent of First Nations communities around British Columbia were now connected.
"Mount Currie is an example of why we're so motivated to connect our communities. When you see a child hold a mini-iPad in their hands and be able to go home from school and connect to the Internet, something most children take for granted, it is something they didn't have access to," Williams said.
The fact that the band will own the means to sell the high-speed Internet is another plus, she added.
"As an Internet service provider, that means circulating our dollars within our own communities, serving them, in addition to having access," she said.
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