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First Nations break ground for fibre optic network to span the province

Posted: Monday, October 14, 2019

Clear Sky Connections broke ground for the Fibre Optic Build in Treaty Five Territory, Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation (Nelson House), Manitoba on Friday October 4, 2019.

The groundbreaking ceremony launched the installation of Fibre Optic cable to Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation located about 75km west of Thompson in Northern Manitoba, the first of many communities who will have access to high-speed internet through a Fibre Optic Network that spans the province. Building Manitoba’s Network of the Future is championed by Clear Sky Connections in partnership with Broadband Communications North, Manitoba Hydro Telecom, and Crown Pipeline Ltd.

At the ceremony, Clear Sky Connections Vice-Chairperson Chief David Crate, of Fisher River Cree Nation said: “Today marks the beginning of economic development opportunities and is a historic moment for us as First Nations, as the mandated organization by the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC) to build the high-speed network launches the build to the first site. The initiative is a game-changer as we build a platform for the youth – the future – to use the communication systems to form linkages with the world outside of some of the most remote isolated communities in Canada.”

Lots of remote and rural communities struggle to stay connected, sending and receiving messages and emails at the speed of dial-up. Although Canada claims that a bulk of Manitoba is “served” with the speeds set by the Canadian Radio-Television Broadcasting Corporation (CRTC) this is not the case. Some communities cannot even download documents that are emailed to them from regional or national offices as the time it takes to download said documents is far too great for the amount of people that are trying to get on the one and only link that is provided by in most cases – the school or nursing station/health centre.

With this great feat, Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation is looking forward to realizing the benefits of access to fibre for economic development and upcoming capital projects, namely a new state-of-the-art health centre, school, and other infrastructure including surrounding communities that have given their consent to proceed to build to them next. According to the Chairperson for Clear Sky Connections, Chief David McDougall of St. Theresa Point First Nation: “This will lead the way for economic prosperity where we can now participate meaningfully in the global economy through telecommunications. The Manitoba Centre for Health Policy recently released findings that we long knew existed for our people and are continuing to worsen. Now we will be able to realize the benefits technology provides around increasing the standard of living and giving us equal access to health, education, business opportunities, and other socio-economic benefits”.

Access to high speed internet is not a luxury; it is essential. It is a means by which citizens create opportunities that could otherwise be out of reach and is a basic tool that all Canadians should have access to. Internet connectivity currently available in Manitoba First Nations is well below industry standards, unreliable and costly compared to urban areas. Clear Sky Connections is positioned to close the gaps to have all First Nation communities and environs on an affordable network that provides good quality service. Ms. Lisa Clarke, Chief Executive Officer, has watched technology evolve at a slower rate in First Nation communities than in urban settings across Manitoba and Canada. She stated at the groundbreaking ceremony: “I especially feel the presence of my late father Bill Clarke (AKA “Bugoose” or “Telephone Bill”) who started this journey 50 years ago when he started working for MTS. Over the course of 30+ years he worked endlessly to connect the communities in the north with telephone service primarily to our home territory of Kinosew Sipi and Island Lake and Thompson region. Watching the networks evolve over the last 40 years has shown nothing short of determination, many points of progress and lessons learned. It has been an amazing undertaking and will continue until ALL of the First Nations of Manitoba have access to high-speed internet.”

With support from Manitoba First Nations, Indigenous Services Canada, the First Nations and Inuit Health Branch, the Province of Manitoba, and a partnership with Manitoba Hydro Telecom, discussions and consultations are continuing to connect more communities. As Clear Sky Indigenous Network, the for-profit limited partnership with Broadband Communications North, continues to expand more exciting announcements will be forthcoming to share with the public!

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