Three communities in the lower Lillooet valley who have relied on a temperamental UHF system for communication with the outside world are taking a giant cyber step forward in bringing in wireless broadband service to the villages.
Charles Peters, communications administrator for In-shuck-ch communities of Douglas, Samahquam and Skatin, received final funding for a C-Band satellite dish that will allow three administrative offices to go online within two weeks, followed up with wireless feeds for 200 residents in the three villages.
Peters says Vancouver-based internet service provider Peer One will work with installer Infosat to get the dish up and running. Although the villages currently have limited internet access at Head of the Lake Community School, Peters says the dish will provide a 1.2 MB download stream, much quicker than the current 56 kbps.
“Once the dish is in we can send wireless shots down to the community from the school, to band offices and [provide] wireless links to the community,” Peters said.
Funding for the project has come through Network B.C., a provincial Ministry of Labour enterprise that aims to connect 70 rural B.C. communities with high-speed internet access.
Sue Hanley, of First Nations Technological Council assisted in facilitating the project. She said connecting the communities will allow for richer educational and more efficient health care treatment, such as tele-health. As an example Hanley said an expectant mother, rather than traveling over the rough forestry road for an ultrasound, could have an ultrasound done in the community and transmitted immediately over the net to a specialist that could read the report and give feedback quickly.
“We’re not talking about saving money, but providing access to better health care,” Hanley said.
Douglas' Chief Darryl Peters says internet service will be a two-step process for his 80-resident community, with the administrative offices going online first and then families and individuals.
“It’s a positive step for us obviously,” Peters said. “How the whole system is going to work for us is the first challenge.”
Peters said security will also be an issue for a community that has never had traditional telephone landlines.
“We will have to look at firewalls and have everything set up properly,” he said.
Teaching older residents how to use the net can be provided not only through classes but through the communities’ younger residents.
“But for those who have never operated a computer before are they going to want to become computer literate? We don’t know.”
Up until this year the communities had only intermittent communication through UHF two-way radio in band offices. Charles Peters said the radio, when it did work “often sounded like an oscillating fan in your ear,” and looks forward to replacing the UHF with broadband communication.
“You guys know anybody that wants to buy it?” he joked.