On Tuesday and Wednesday, Sept 12 and 13), I travelled over to Grassy Narrows and Wabaseemoong First Nations to meet with local officials to identify strategies to develop local broadband connectivity solutions.
Grassy Narrows First Nation is working with North One Communications (http://northone.ca) to develop their community connections to the internet. Robert Williamson, Project Manager is overseeing the development of this local resource for Grassy Narrows. A local wireless network is now operational with both businesses and homes being connected to it by a local team of technicians trained by Richard Lajeunesse (Richard5205@northone.ca). Richard is the owner of North One and is a Grassy Narrows band member.
Industry Canada's FedNor's Telecommunication program is funding K-Net to support First Nations across northern Ontario to develop local community broadband solutions. One investment of these funds was to fund North One and the Crescive network to install two radios on Bell towers that would connect Grassy Narrows to the Kuhkenah Network. This construction work was successfully completed over this past spring and summer, connecting the community to a broadband network that supports video conferencing and high speed internet access.
The K-Net visit provided everyone the opportunity to learn about how the connections are working and how Grassy Narrows can begin working to develop local economic initiatives using these connections. Trevor Ashopenace is working at the local school under Industry Canada's First Nations SchoolNet program. He is now working with Richard's and K-Net's team to get the video conferencing equipment and connections working at the school.
A meeting with the Wabaseemoong Independent Nation Chief and Council was an opportunity to introduce the concept for bringing a Bell Canada T1 connection into their community. An interest in working with Richard's team at North One and arranging a visit to Grassy Narrows to learn about their connectivity development work was expressed. Glen Cameron, Public Works Manager, is leading this work on behalf of the council.
Keewaytinook Okimakanak's K-Net team is working with Matawa First Nations Management in the construction of local community broadband networks in four Nishnawbe Aski Nation communities.
Constance Lake, Marten Falls, Pikangikum and Sandy Lake First Nations will be seeing local cable systems being installed throughout their communities over the next few months.
Meetings last week with K-Net and Matawa staff clarified roles and responsibilities as the Matawa team leads this community broadband network construction project.
Each First Nation is contributing support for the development of their community network. Matawa was successful in obtaining over $900,000 from Industry Canada's Broadband for Rural and Northern Development. Keewaytinook Okamakanak's K-Net Services received funding from Industry Canada's FedNor program to help support the purchase of the network equipment and support the construction work.
The initial meeting with Thunder Bay Telephone on Friday, Sept 8, resulted in many new exciting opportunities for the various projects that Keewaytinook Okimakanak and their First Nation partners are undertaking. Angela Crozier of NAN, Rob Wesley of Matawa, Franz Seibel of KORI, Brian Beaton and Adi Linden of K-Net, along with Carl Seibel of FedNor were able to meet with several key Thunder Bay Telephone officials (including John Lyon from Superior Wireless who is now on contract with T.Bay Tel for the transition period) to discuss the various initiatives that K-Net and our partners are developing.
Thunder Bay Telephone officially took over ownership of all Superior Wireless assets on September 1, 2006.
The Superior Wireless team was working over the past few years with the K-Net team to develop broadband connectivity solutions in a number of First Nations and locsl organizations. All indications from our initial meeting with Thunder Bay Telephone, is that everything will "business as usual" with our new partner.
All the staff and resources from Superior Wireless are now moved into the Thunder Bay Telephone resulting in many more options and efficiencies in how best to design and deliver the planned connections. Some of the planned work will now be able to migrate to existing fibre connections.
Existing connections will be maintained and developed in partnership with Thunder Bay Telephone, the new owners of Superior Wireless. All new connections will be developed in partnership with Thunder Bay Telephone and their partners. One example of this is the new fibre interconnection at the water tower in Sioux Lookout. This new connection that was installed last week will now support a redundant route for K-Net’s existing 100Mb connection back to Thunder Bay.
The K-Net team is looking forward to working with Thunder Bay Telephone to develop these opportunities for improved broadband connectivity in the First Nations.
The CBC news story, "Reserve schools worried about internet cuts", (see below) highlights a funding problem that will be affecting First Nation schools across the country starting in early 2007.
Keewaytinook Okimakanak has delivered Industry Canada’s First Nations SchoolNet program in its present format in partnership with First Nation schools across Ontario since December 2002. The program has included working with the schools to develop subsidized broadband connections to better serve the students, staff and community. These connectivity subsidies from the Industry Canada’s First Nations SchoolNet program will end as of December of this year for the First Nation schools across Ontario.
Presently there are no other plans in place from the Federal government to support First Nation schools to sustain these broadband connections starting in January. Many schools have T1 connections that support video conferencing and other broadband applications. Some of the schools are sharing the costs of these connections with other local community organizations (the health centre and the band office). The school connectivity subsidy is helping remote and rural schools to access resources too often taken for granted in urban centres.
There is a need to make sure that all Members of Parliament are made aware of the impact of this decision. Hopefully additional press coverage and discussions in Parliament will provide the pressure required to ensure the Federal government announces an alternative program and the dollars necessary to help First Nation schools to stay connected with the rest of the world.
For more information, contact ...
Coordinator, K-Net Services
Box 1439, 115 King Street
Sioux Lookout, ON, P8T 1B9
Tel: 807-737-1135 or toll free at 877-737-KNET(5638) ext 1251
IP and ISDN Video conferencing available
From CBC Online ... http://www.cbc.ca/story/news/national/2006/09/08/schools-net.html
Reserve schools worried about internet cuts
Sept 8, 2006 - CBC News
Some cash-strapped schools on Saskatchewan First Nations reserves are worried they may soon lose their internet connections — a move some educators say could be a disaster for learning.
Early next year, the money will run out for the federal First Nations SchoolNet program, which providing internet access to reserve schools across Canada, including 170 in Saskatchewan and Alberta. The program has been in place since 2002.
A spokesperson from Industry Canada, which runs the program along with regional management groups, said there's no plan to reinstate funding. The department doesn't know if there will be more money available later.
With the program gone, some schools would need to come up with an extra $1,000 a month — money they say they don't have.
Brian McCarthy, a teacher in the northern community of Patuanak, said he's not sure how the school will adapt when the money runs out, although research materials are always a crucial requirement.
"Our whole media studies program is based on the internet," he said. "Our library is very ill-equipped, so all of our classes use the internet access for research."
Teachers, too, are dependent on the net connection.
"Between eight and nine in the morning, at least two-thirds of our teachers are on the internet researching material for the classes," McCarthy said.
Five researchers from the Universities of Ryerson, York and Toronto arrived in Thunder Bay on Tuesday and then travelled to Sioux Lookout and Lac Seul.
The Community Wireless Infrastructure Research Project, funded by Infrastructure Canada is another spin off initiative from the Canadian Research Alliance for Community Innovation and Networking (http://cracin.ca). As part of this project, the researchers are producing a series of publications about four case studies about the use of community wireless networks in Fredericton, Montreal, Toronto and Lac Seul First Nation.
From their Background Information .. Purpose of the Study ...
This study is invertigating various models of public internet infrastructure provision and the benefits associated with them. In particular, the study is considering how wireless internet access can be made available to Canadian citizens in ways that ensure access to everyone, regardless of georgraphic location, income or other potential constraints. The study will do so by investigating cases of wireless internet in a number of communities in Canada. Results of the study will be made available to the project funding agency, Infrastructure Canada and to all interested parties.
Benefits of the Study:
The research investigates issues to the development, deployment and use of wireless internet. As a public policy issue, it is important to understand the benefits and disadvantages of both private and public ownership and control of wireless internet infrastructure. The researchers will be reporting their results back to Infrastructure Canada, the funding agency, and it is hoped that the findings of this study will be taken into account in future public policymaking with respect to the stucture of ownership for wireless internet infrastructure in Canada.
Two very interesting training courses are coming to the KO Water Plant Operator Training Centre.
The first course starts August 22 and is a two day leak detection course with CEU’s value. For more information about this course visit http://www.watertraining.ca/waterleak.html
A two day Confined Space course is being offered Sept. 13-14 with the M.H.S.A. featuring their specially designed training trailer. Check out the course description at http://www.watertraining.ca/confinedspace.html.
Article about INAC's Safe Water Panel from Saskatchewan hearings ....
Sask. reserves offer example for safe water - Federal panel praises improvements in quality
Zak Markan - The StarPhoenix - Thursday, July 27, 2006
Efforts made by Saskatchewan aboriginal people to make water management and consumption safer on reserves have impressed a federal panel studying First Nations water issues.
"There's been some very good presentations today, very much from the front-line folks," said Harry Swain, chair of the independent panel that will advise the federal government on improving poor-quality water on First Nations reserves.
Swain and fellow panellists Steve Hrudey and Grand Chief Stan Louttit were holding an informal consultation at the Radisson Hotel in Saskatoon Wednesday and Thursday. The panel has been travelling across the country for more than a month, talking with aboriginal health experts, water technicians and First Nations politicians about ways to deal with the poor treatment facilities and water management on reserves.
The panel was chosen by Indian Affairs Minister Jim Prentice in consultation with Phil Fontaine, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations.
Swain said that efforts made by aboriginal people in Saskatchewan -- particularly the Yellow Quill and Gordon First Nations -- to improve water management on reserves could be beneficial for other First Nations in the Canada.
"The lessons they learned are applicable all over the country," said Swain.
Swain, who is also the director of the Canadian Institute for Climate Studies at the University of Victoria, draws a lot of his experience during these consultations from when he chaired the research advisory panel of the Walkerton Inquiry.
"The policy question (at Walkerton) was, 'What do you do to assure public health?' " Swain said. "In some sense, that's the same question here."
He adds that these general health concerns, coupled with an historically paternalistic, top-down approach that the federal government has had when dealing with aboriginal concerns, have made the water issue on reserves more difficult to deal with.
"Most of the time, the approach that is applied is a sort of top-down approach," said Dr. Mandiangu Nsungu, medical health officer for the Northern Inter-Tribal Health Authority (NITHA). The authority is an organization that regulates various health services, including water management, in 33 First Nation communities across northern Saskatchewan. Nsungu said NITHA was a model organization for assuring safe water management because its members are given a strong voice in the decision-making processes.
"I wish there were more NITHAs around the country," said Nsungu. "There has to be in-depth discussions between the different stake-holders, and this must include the First Nations."
Nsungu adds that mid-sized organizations like NITHA are the best way to assure good water management on reserves because larger, inter-provincial regulatory bodies would become too distant and bureaucratic, while individual bands have too few resources to guarantee safety standards.
Another measure that would assure safer water on reserves would be aboriginal federations or associations starting up their own environment departments, said Justin Scott, water technician for the Beardy's and Okemasis First Nation.
"As stewards of Mother Earth, we're supposed to be the ones to sustain her for the next generation. But it's not happening," Scott said. "We talk about regulating water, but the thing is, if we're stewards, why don't we have an environment department?" He adds having an environment department on reserves and actively regulating water systems will allow the water issue to be dealt with more completely.
Swain says he hopes the panel's recommendations to Department of Indian and Northern Affairs, expected to be submitted in September, will give some practical alternatives for aboriginal peoples.
The StarPhoenix (Saskatoon) 2006
Paul Otis, Manager of the Keewaytinook Okimakanak Water Plant Operator Training Program, spent the day in Sioux Lookout examining various e-learning strategies being used by the different KO programs.
The various e-learning demonstrations included a variety of communication tools that use the broadband network to support capacity building in remote and rural First Nations across Ontario. These include the use of:
Establishing a Kuhkenah Network connection at their training centre to enable the staff to develop and access these resources is now being planned.
For more information about the Water Plant Operator Training program visit www.watertraining.ca
VIDEOCOM Research Project (Video Communications on Broadband Networks) is a collaborative research initiative lead by the Susan O'Donnell from the National Research Centre and Sonja Berley from the University of New Brunswick.
VIDEOCOM is funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council's Standard Research Grants 2006-2009, with in-kind contributions from the National Research Council, Keewaytinook Okimakanak, and Atlantic Canada's First Nations Help Desk.
VIDEOCOM is investigating video communications on broadband in First Nations communities, looking specifically at the social inclusion and citizen engagement aspects.
From the project overview ....
Video Communications on Broadband: Social Inclusion and Citizen Engagement
Every year, more Aboriginal communities across the country gain the capacity to use broadband for video communications. There is potential for Aboriginal communities to use video communications on broadband not only for distance learning and telehealth but also for becoming active producers of video content - for example collaborating on community-designed videoconferences sessions that build collective knowledge and producing collective videos to disseminate community views and information.
Key First Nations organizations are playing a leading role in developing, using and facilitating video communications in Canada. For example, the Keewaytinook Okimakanak (KO) tribal council and K-Net in Northern Ontario use multi-site videoconferencing to conduct meetings, and they webstream the archived sessions for later use. KO uses broadband for an Internet High School that allows students to remain longer in their remote First Nations communities, and for various telehealth uses such as remote diagnosing of common health complaints that reduces the need for expensive and disruptive trips by air to hospitals in larger urban centres. Atlantic Canada's First Nations Helpdesk uses multi-site videoconferencing to facilitate communications between students in First Nations schools and webstreaming to disseminate videos created by students.
The VIDEOCOM project is led by Dr. Susan O'Donnell of the National Research Council and the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton, working with community research partners KO / K-Net / KORI in Sioux Lookout and Thunder Bay, Ontario and Atlantic Canada's First Nations Help Desk in Sydney, Nova Scotia. The project is funded by SSHRC (Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council) from 2006 to 2009, with in-kind contributions by the research partners.
VIDEOCOM will develop case studies of these two community organizations - KO/K-Net and Atlantic Canada's First Nations Help Desk - to explore how they are using video communications to facilitate the inclusion and engagement of Aboriginal communities and especially of groups such as Aboriginal women and Aboriginal youth.
The research will be designed to assist the two organizations and their communities to continue to develop their capacity to conduct research and to use video communications to support their local inclusion and engagement activities.
Click here to read a paper entitled "Broadband Video Communication Research in First Nation Communities" by Susan O'Donnell and Sonja Berley that was presented at the Canadian Communication Association Annual Conference in Toronto this spring.
Philipp Budka is visiting Sioux Lookout to learn about the possibilities of conducting his doctoral thesis and research about the Kuhkenah Network and the online MyKnet.Org community. Philipp describes himself as "a social anthropologist from Vienna, Austria" on his web site.
During this past week (July 7 to 16), Philipp sent time meeting with members of the K-Net team and various people who know about the work completed to support the development of K-Net and MyKnet.Org. He spent one day visiting the three communities in Lac Seul First Nation (http://lacseul.firstnation.ca) to learn about their network connections and attended the pow-wow in Wauzhusk Onigum First Nation.(www.ratportagefirstnation.com) over the weekend.
From Philipp's web site at http://philbu.net
Beside providing resources about the anthropology of cyberculture, this website focuses on the use of information and communication technologies by indigenous groups, organisations and networks.
Arranged and maintained by Philipp Budka, a social anthropologist from Vienna, Austria, this site gives an overview on his work and education.
More private as well as professional activities are documented in Philipp Budka's blog (in German but with lots of pictures).
Philipp Budka can be contacted via e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org