Tyendinaga takes control of the First Mile


First Mile Field Notes :
Tyendinaga takes control of the
First Mile

By Rob McMahon, Kevin Maracle and Chris Maracle

Note: This is an introduction to Tyendinaga’s First Mile connectivity story – in the coming months, community-produced videos will offer more detail of the history of community-driven technology development in Tyendinaga

High-speed broadband fibre runs a stone’s throw from the outskirts of Tyendinaga, a Mohawk community located just 2.5 hours east of Toronto. On a good day, residents at the edges of the territory can connect to patchy wireless signals or link to DSL.

But for most of the community’s 2,124 residents and local services, reliable broadband Internet remains unavailable — despite the fact they have been asking for high speed access for the territory for years. That’s because the incumbent telecommunications provider has not built a local point-of-presence. When FNTI requested a T1 line in 2000, the original bill was $3,700 per month for the dedicated Internet and local loop – at a speed of 1.2Mbps (which was slower than that received by nearby towns at the time). As is the case in many First Nations across Canada, this high cost was rationalized by a predicted lack of return on commercial investment.

For now, no band infrastructure buildings have wired high-speed access. The three local schools share a single T1 line provided by KO-KNET through a wireless network built by the community. Local service providers, including FNTI, have plans to develop community applications, including after-school tutoring, e-health, elder’s visits and Mohawk language support, but the lack of available bandwidth stifles these initiatives.

In 2009, Tyendinaga began taking control and ownership of their First Mile connectivity. With the support of local chief and councillors, the community started building the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte (MBQ) Network. When completed, it will become Canada’s first-ever, First Nations community-owned and operated fibre to the home project: a significant technical achievement.

It has been a struggle to build the MBQ network, with the project faced with high costs, fragmented community support and even vandalism. But now the network is 95% completed, and current estimates predict it will be lit up by Spring 2012.

The MBQ Network is just one example of Tyendinaga’s history of community-driven technology development – a story that extends to the days long before Internet, television and even telephones were available. Stay tuned…

Click here to see Tyendinaga on Google Maps.