Leq’a:mel First Nation granted $89,000 to develop fibre-optic network

CIRA grant will help ‘dozens and dozens’ of businesses on reserve, and nearly 100 residents

The Leq’a:mel First Nation officially opened its new Tim Hortons/Esso gas station in Deroche in 2019.

The Leq’a:mel First Nation officially opened its new Tim Hortons/Esso gas station in Deroche in 2019.

Businesses on Leq’a:mel First Nation reserve land will be getting a much-needed boost to internet stability after receiving a $89,000 grant to develop a fibre-optic network and upgrade hardware.

The Leq’a:mel Development Corporation (LDC) is one of 16 recipients this year of the Canadian Internet Registration Authority’s (CIRA) grants.

A total of $1.25 million was provided through its Community Investment Program, meant to support digital development through community-led projects.

The internet connection on the Leq’a:mel reserve was described as ranging from “OK, at some times, to absolutely horrible, at others,” by Ron Smith, LDC’s CEO.

“For the businesses that we are developing out here, a lot of it depends on connection, and there has been a very inconsistent signal,” Smith said, adding the new fibre optics should make them more efficient when it comes to day-to-day sales.

“It’s hard to operate a business without good connections. And it’s going to provide a good footing for future success.”

The new network will provide better service to “dozens and dozens” of businesses, along with likely 100 residential users as well, Smith said, noting the need to upgrade has been identified going back 10 years.

The majority of the work will be completed before November, 2022, but further stabilization and underground servicing will follow.

It will immediately help businesses between the Deroche General Store and the Esso Station, Smith said.

CIRA says they recognize reliable internet connection is an issue that remains an urgent priority in First Nations communities, and funded projects from all three of Canada’s northern territories, emphasizing those that would benefit First Nations.

“As the lasting effects of the global pandemic have changed the way we all work and live, there is no question that funding projects that address digital equity is essential,” said Byron Holland, CIRA president and CEO.

Since the CIRA’s creation in 2014, nearly $10.5 million has been invested into 201 “digital equity projects” across Canada.

For the 2022 grants, the focus areas are digital literacy, infrastructure and cybersecurity.

Sixty-eight per cent of the projects will serve Indigenous communities; 31 per cent are Indigenous-led; half serve northern territories and provinces and half serve rural and remote communities; and 81 per cent focus on serving students.

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