The Ashcroft Indian Band (AIB) is one of 10 First Nations — including Bonaparte, Cook’s Ferry, and Shackan — that will see improved internet speeds and reliability this fall, thanks to an investment from the Connecting British Columbia program that supports improved connectivity for Indigenous peoples.
Jodene Blain, Band Administrator for AIB, says the band has been trying for several years to get improved internet access. They have been offering a number of online programs, such as a cooking show and Bingo, via their Facebook page, but a number of band members have difficulty accessing the content due to poor or non-existent connectivity.
“We have really bad service, and have to do door-to-door newsletters. A lot of people can’t access the cooking show or Bingo because of that, and they can’t do Facetime with doctors or have access to different things.
“This will open up so many opportunities, especially for older people.”
Blain says that while there is WiFi on the reserve, it doesn’t reach all the houses. “We’ve spent a lot of money to get signals from one end to the other; we’ve tried a tower. The east end is the worst, and we can’t figure this out.”
She adds that the band has applied for tablets and iPads for everyone. “That would help with accessing programs around addiction and sobriety, or online counselling, because not everyone wants to go to Kamloops.
“We’ve talked about having courses around teaching people about accessing things; step-by-step training. We’d like to start it in the winter.”
Blain notes that the online cooking program — which includes having all the ingredients delivered to the home — has done very well, but some people can’t see the directions live so have to go to the health centre to get a print copy, or watch it there.
“Now they can do it from home. And we can take suggestions and expand programs from there.”
Telus will receive up to $3.58 million from the Connecting British Columbia program for projects to improve the speed and reliability of internet access in 10 communities within the territories of the Ashcroft Indian Band, Upper Nicola Band, Cook’s Ferry First Nation, Shackan Indian Band, Bonaparte First Nation, Saik’uz First Nation, Kitselas First Nation, Lheidli T’enneh, and Coldwater Indian Band. ABC Communications has been approved for a grant of up to $322,010 to improve high-speed internet access in Yekooche First Nation territory.
Work has already started at AIB, and Blain hopes it will be finished this month.
“This is very exciting for our community,” she says. “Since COVID-19, our staff have developed a wide variety of online and virtual programs to help our members feel connected while staying at home. This new connection will allow us to expand our programs and create new opportunities for our members. It also allows our community to have high-speed internet without any interruption, which has been a long time coming.”