Members of the Soda Creek Indian Band - Xat’sull First Nation are celebrating a major milestone this week in the rural community, located approximately 35 kilometres north of Williams Lake — the delivery of high speed Internet service.
“This opens a whole new door for us,” said Chief Sheri Sellars, who has spearheaded the project for the past three years. “We hooked up every home in our community.”
Bringing fiber optic networking into the Soda Creek and Deep Creek communities was a major long-term goal for the leadership and will vastly improve access to health services, water quality monitoring, security and communications. Sellars said overall, the service will greatly improve the quality of life of residents. Up until now, the community struggled to operate their government, businesses and overall communications due to various slow, expensive rural options.
“If I needed to upload a photo to our site, I’d start it, walk downstairs, have a coffee, talk to a few people and by the time I got back to my desk the photo would be finished uploading.”
Craig Smith, the band’s administrator, noted that there were times when government and business communications were slowed to a crawl, when children were using the computers at the educational terminals.
The project has resulted in about 70 homes being hooked up at no cost to the residents, along with all the band’s offices and businesses such as the Whispering Willows Campsite. Nenqayni Treatment Centre and the Pioneer Log Homes yard can also choose high speed Internet now.
Several years ago, Chief Sellars began the project under her past position as communications co-ordinator with the Soda Creek Band, partnering with All Nations Trust’s Pathways to Technology program which at that time former Chief Donna Dixon and the band administrator turned the file over to her.
The program has covered the costs associated with the infrastructure and major installation of the community’s fiber network, which occurred over the summer. Their technical partner, Telus, will bring connection into homes and offer a variety of services never before available in the community.
A community meeting was held on Nov. 15 in the Xat’sull Community Gymnasium to explain the project, process, the available services and bundles as well as the discounts and promotions available to the community members. Telus showcased home entertainment and networking technology, integrated security and surveillance systems, and a number of assistive products for Elders. Telus also discussed their health application, Babylon.
Babylon allows users to check their symptoms, see a doctor through secure video conferencing and get prescriptions or referrals.
Telus staff and technicians were in attendance to answer questions and give out information and promotional materials. Pathways to Technologies also donated an iPad door prize and two laptops for the community members to use. The laptops will be available for use in the community room across from reception.
Sellars said the importance of 21st century technologies like fibre optic networking in First Nation communities cannot be understated.
“This is the first step to bridging a significant technological gap. Over the coming months, SCIB will be rolling out more information and discussing just how much of an impact this will have for the administration, health and wellness, education and training and communications,” she said.
“We would like to thank ANTCO, Pathways to Technology, Telus, and Chemco for helping the Soda Creek Indian Band to reach our goal of Fiber Networking in our communities.”