THUNDER BAY — New federal and Ontario government funding of $63 million will enable Matawa First Nations to begin the next phase of a long-haul fibre-optic network linking member communities northeast of Thunder Bay.
Deployment of the Rapid Lynx broadband project was started in 2020 after an initial $30-million contribution from the province and about $40 million from the federal government.
Rapid Lynx will consist of over 1,000 kilometres of fibre and will provide reliable high-speed internet service to residents and businesses in five remote fly-in communities: Eabametoong, Marten Falls, Webequie, Neskantaga and Nibinamik First Nations.
With funding for the next stage in place, it will build on the work already being done in phase one, and will see the deployment of nearly 300 kilometres of fibre-optic cable connecting Aroland and the five fly-in First Nations to Matawa's road-access communities of Ginoogaming, Long Lake 58, and Constance Lake.
A component of the project will also connect Nibinamik to Wunnumim Lake First Nation, providing a second connection to the internet for redundancy and path diversity, thereby increasing network reliability. Matawa First Nations Management (MFNM) said the additional funding will allow construction of phase two to begin late this year or early next year.
The network will provide symmetrical speeds of up to one gigabits per second. MFNM partnered with U.S.-based Magellan Advisors in 2014 to develop the project.
The company provides planning, engineering, grant development, implementation and management services.
CEO David Paul Achneepineskum said the significance of the project can't be overstated, as Matawa communities continue to struggle with internet connectivity issues.
"When completed, the Rapid Lynx network will be 100 per cent owned, governed and operated by Matawa First Nations, allowing us to control our own digital future and provide affordable, reliable and secure high-speed connectivity for the first time to areas that only had the limited capability of shared satellite service before," he said.
Achneepineskum added that Rapid Lynx will transform education, health care, economic development, job creation and security in the Matawa First Nations, and improve residents' quality of life.