Standoff – Alberta
Tuesday, 29 November 2011, 04:50 PM
By Rick Tailfeathers
Since the development of high speed internet on the Blood reserve in 2007 and the installation of the Supernet, a Province of Alberta initiative to get all Albertans plugged in, with movement toward internet access to homes has been difficult, until now. Recent discussions between Blood Tribe communications people and First Nations (AB) Technical Services Advisory Group (TSAG) and Strategic Information Services, an Edmonton based company, have brought forth a proposal to provide high speed internet to the Blood reserve at a lower cost than presently exists in the marketplace.
A parabolic antenna overlooks a native community that has integrated the wireless high speed internet system.
It all began nearly six months ago when TSAG approached the Blood Tribe to provide support in monitoring the water treatment plants there; this would be done by providing connectivity to the Supernet through fibre optic cable and broadband technology.
In recent years, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada have implemented a higher standard of water quality to First Nationscommunities with financial and technical support. Safe water for First Nations communities is crucial. The water monitoring system is internet based and highly efficient, it will warn the technicians immediately when there are problems at the water treatment plants.
As the discussions continued between the Blood Tribe and TSAG, it became apparent that the infrastructure being planned could have other uses, such as internet connectivity to individual homes, much the same as present internet providers such as Telus, Shaw and Bell, mega companies that have been slowly creeping into homes. The demand for internet in homes has increased due to its necessity for student learning. Many students are now doing assignments and research on the web.
The First Nations Technical Services Advisory Group (TSAG) in Alberta
The most recent discussions have garnered the support of Chief and Council and an agreement is in the works. The planned developments include additional towers to cover all points of the reserve and receivers to bring the web into homes at a nominal cost. There would be a monthly internet charge to the users, but far less than commercial rates. In terms of structure, a company to provide internet could be formed as a partnership between TSAG, Edmonton based SIS (Strategic Information Services) and BT Wireless.
It is planned that the tribe will eventually take over as the sole owner of the company. The Blood Tribe Chief Charles Weasel Head has commented that “this is a big step for the community and will provide a much needed service, especially for educational purposes.”
Internet services have been available for some time through the providers bordering the reserve and the competition has been intense, the demand by reserve residents is increasing.