High-speed Internet which is 10 times faster than the existing service is being rolled out in Gitanmaax, Old Hazelton and Kispiox for the first time.
Prince Rupert-based company CityWest last week completed its first installation of fibre-to-the-home Internet, which it plans to introduce street-by-street from Gitanmaax Food and Fuel to the Village of Old Hazelton.
The service will then be extended to Kispiox village.
Replacing an aging cable service, the new technology was installed through a partnership between CityWest and the All Nations Trust Company (ANTCO).
An aboriginal-owned financial institution, ANTCO runs a “Pathways to Technology initiative aimed at connecting or enhancing high-speed Internet access in remote First Nations communities in B.C.
CityWest director of sales and marketing Donovan Dias said ANTCO approached his company about replacing the old cable infrastructure.
“They came over to us and asked us if we would be interested in rebuilding that plant over there,” he said.
“When we looked at all our options, cable technology is starting to die away and there’s not really a whole lot of places that it can go so we decided to embark on fibre-to-the-home as an option for them which they really bought into.”
The new service raises the Internet speed at Gitanmaax from five megabits per second to 50, a speed that CityWest does not yet offer in Smithers.
Dias said customers who sign on to a monthly phone, television and Internet bundle could access the service for about $105 per month, and installation for new customers would be free.
The fees are the same as in bigger communities like Prince Rupert and Terrace.
Dias said there was already a waiting list of about 150 people who wanted to access the service.
CityWest will contact residents after the cable was installed on their street.
ANTCO community relations officer Jamie Sterritt said high-speed Internet access was important to remote communities.
“By providing reliable high-speed Internet services, these communities will benefit from opportunities for education, health care, culture and economic development for First Nations people,” Sterritt said.
“We partnered with CityWest because they’re a local company that understands the people of northwest B.C.”
Hazelton Public Library librarian Tara Williston said she was hopeful the library would be able to introduce more services, such as free wi-fi, which are standard at most libraries.
“It will positively impact our service,” she said.
“It looks like we’ll finally be able to afford to offer free wi-fi which we’ve never had in the past and that’s something that almost every library has and we’re way behind on that.”
Williston said at CityWest’s advertised cost, which was much lower than that of their current service, the library would be able to introduce multiple phone lines and email addresses.
“It’s just catching up to basic librarian office standards that other people have had for years,” she said.