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High-speed access opens doors

THREE FIRST Nations communities in northwestern B.C. can now access high-speed internet.

Tahltan communities in Telegraph Creek, Dease Lake and Iskut formerly relied on satellite and dial-up internet connections, which can be slow and unreliable, said a press release last week.

Net upgrades are part of a $41 million project by Pathways to Technology, a B.C.-wide connectivity initiative managed by the All Nations Trust Company, which gets money from the province and the Broadband Canada Program.

The initiative's purpose is to connect remote communities with faster internet connection, strengthening resident access to services.

“I think it's one of the most exciting things with the overall projects,” said company chief executive officer Ruth Williams, “being able to connect those communities in the remote northern area.”

Services more easily accessed with a quicker connection include things like online classes, remote access to medical specialists, computer training, social media connectivity and such, said the release.

“The Pathways project and our work with Northwestel is an important stride towards closing the socio-economic gap between rural First Nations and the rest of British Columbians,” said Williams.

Getting internet to the communities involved installing new equipment, some of which was on the side of a mountain top, said the release.

“Fast, but more importantly reliable, Internet service is very important for us because of the remoteness,” said Tahltan Band chief Rick McLean in a press release.

The Pathways to Technology project intends to connect more than 50 First Nations from across B.C. that don't have Internet or have slow connections over the next five years.

The project also has an educational component with $5 million set aside for training in online skills.

The project has been established to ensure all 203 First Nations in B.C. are connected.

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