April 2, 2015

First Mile Q&A

What is the First Mile?

The ‘First Mile’ refers to local broadband systems: infrastructure and networks. It focuses on local connectivity from the perspective of a community. Across Canada, First Nations are building broadband systems and using them to deliver services to their communities. To be effective, these systems must be designed and implemented with local communities from the very start. Community members need access to bandwidth and proper training. They can help shape technologies to meet local needs.

Read the First Mile Concept paper:

Why is the First Mile important for First Nations?

A community that puts First Mile concepts into action is working closely with its strategic partners to control and manage its broadband network and infrastructure. This has involved two distinct, but linked definitions of ‘broadband’.

First, broadband is a community service. It includes the wireless, fibre or cable networks that link together homes, businesses and organizations in the community, and to the world at large. If First Nations control the broadband systems in their territory, they can manage them strategically to ensure they meet the community’s current and future needs.

Second, broadband is a way to support First Nations governments to deliver community and social services. This includes applications developed for health services, schools and education, justice and policing and other services. First Nations can use locally controlled networks to deliver these services to members and residents.

In December 2011, the Chiefs in Assembly of the Assembly of First Nations passed a resolution (53/2011) supporting the AFN’s First Nations e-Community Strategy that directly references the First Mile work and 2010 report. This follows an earlier resolution that outlines the e-Community concept and strategy (16/2008).

Read the 2010 report Putting the ‘last-mile’ first: Re-framing Broadband Development in First Nations and Inuit Communities

Why would First Nations want to control their broadband infrastructure?

Across the country, broadband infrastructure and networks are rapidly being developed on First Nations territories. First Nations governments recognize they need more broadband capacity to support their delivery of community and social services. First Nations community organizations, businesses and households are also driving demand as they spend more time online and use more high-bandwidth applications, like video.

Many First Nations are now attempting to develop local broadband ownership and control over their local telecom networks and infrastructures. They also recognize the economic benefits of this development work. They recognize that the relationships, structures and agreements being put into place at this early stage will shape how broadband systems are developed in the future on First Nations territories.

Historically, First Nations recognize that in most cases, corporate telecom providers only deliver the minimum level of service at the maximum price possible. Whenever public funds are available, telecom providers always make the required claims to access these funds to develop their infrastructure. But once public funds for these projects are depleted, the level of service in the First Nations quickly returns to an inadequate and insufficient level.

First Nations realize the importance of owning and controlling their own infrastructure and investing in the capacity to effectively operate and maintain their networks and applications. This creates economic and social opportunities for each First Nation.

What is the purpose of the First Mile community stories?

The First Mile project celebrates locally owned and managed First Nations Information and Communications Technologies (ICT). This website highlights stories of community-driven ICT projects. It is not enough just to be ‘connected’. Who, what, how, and why we connect are important too.

More information: