By KELLY LOUISEIZE
Northern Ontario will always have remote communities, but they no longer have to be isolated.
That's what Minister of State (FedNor) Joe Comuzzi said at a Northern Indigenous Community Satellite Network ceremonial opening in Sioux Lookout.
In the next two years the government has budgeted for Internet infrastructure so every community, regardless of size, will have access to the broadband network. It will make this region the first in Canada to be connected through broadband service, Comuzzi says.
A C-band satellite antenna has been installed at the Keewaytinook Okimakanak's K-Net Service hub in Sioux Lookout. The Northern Indigenous Community Satellite Network will also have support for telemedicine capabilities to nine satellite served facilities on 18 remote First Nations linked to the federal hospital in Sioux Lookout. Nine other are to be accommodated by K-Net's land based network. Information and telecommunications services are provided to 20 neighbouring remote First Nations.
The possibilities stemming from the services are far-reaching, carrying new education and training opportunities, economic spin-offs and a long distance health care system that can link patient with health professional through virtual portals.
Keewaytinook Internet High School will purchase computers, videoconferencing units and Internet Protocol telephones, cameras and projectors for 13 classrooms and the administrative offices. Instead of bringing the student to the education facility, the idea will be to have the education components available right in First Nations communities. Currently some high school programs are available on the Internet and more education components will be forthcoming once the equipment and need arises.
Because of the broadband services, First Nations communities can have marketing capabilities for their entrepreneurs. They can use the Internet to advertise their products, as well as for gathering information. Local service providers will account for new job position throughout the region, K-Net service coordinator Brian Beaton says. The technical support that is required locally will be in demand and the "business applications are limitless.
"(First Nations people) are able to manage organizations and businesses through a co-operative environment," Beaton says.
In Northern Ontario, approximately 14 communities will be up and running by satellite this spring. Northern Quebec has 14 and Northern Manitoba will have 10 remote communities benefiting from the satellite service. Approximately 30,000 First Nations people will be impacted by the project.
Comuzzi announced funding of $2.3 million to support technological initiatives that will help communities and organizations benefit from the satellite service. Announced was $500,000 to develop the C-band satellite, $500,000 for new equipment at Keewaytinook Internet High School and $464,000 for IP telephone equipment, $430,000 to telehealth services to six additional remote First Nations communities and $410,000 for additional computer equipment to existing telehealth communities.which has allocated $10 million.