Northern Indigenous Community Satellite Network

Meeting of the Network Communities January 20, 2005

Approximately 30 representatives of communities from Northern Ontario , Manitoba and Quebec met in Sioux Lookout on January 20, 2005, to discuss the possibility of working together as NICSN users.

In this session there were presentations from Kathy Fisher, Director of Broadband, Information Highway Applications Branch(to view Kathy's presentation,"Right Click" and "Save Target As") and from Dan Pellerin, Network Manager of K-NET (to view Dan's presentation,"Right Click" and "Save Target As"), followed by a discussion amongst participants about forming a network users group.

Summary of Discussion following Ms. Fisher's presentation

Community representatives focussed their response to Ms Fisher's presentation by emphasizing their concerns about the high cost of broadband services and the issues of sustainability. The importance of using broadband to generate meaningful economic development was raised, along with the suggestion of creating a First Nations owned telephone company.

Financing was a major topic of discussion. Ms. Fisher emphasized that broadband will bring savings in other departments, such as medical transportation; communicating with these departments to bring about an investment in broadband is one of her department's priorities. Concerns about the very high operating costs were raised., especially in small communities. Broadband should in fact lower existing infrastructure costs and resultant savings could help cover the ongoing expense. Ms. Fisher encouraged participants to communicate this message to government leaders and departments.

When Ms. Fisher's department makes an investment in a community project, the community has demonstrated the project's sustainability, including the costs borne by other federal departments who will themselves become users.

Ms. Fisher's department is working on measuring benchmarks, and the extent of the impacts of broadband internet on communities. They are also looking to receive feedback from the communities.

Summary of Discussion Following Mr. Pellerin's Presentation

There was support all round for creating a community satellite network group across the three regions. All three regions decided to meet amongst themselves first and appoint a working group which would have representatives on a larger NICSN network association. Some ideas for the purpose and mandate of the association were discussed, including:

•  Working with the federal government on policy change and particularly policy development

•  Establishing First Nation telephone services

•  Sharing successes and lessons learned

•  The need to lobby for finances

•  Collective buying power and other financial opportunities

•  Cost savings from all applications to pay collectively for the bandwidth

•  Capacity building and training: being able to solve technical problems within the communities, for example

•  Quality control issues and security

•  An association newsletter as a way of promoting the network

Next Steps

Ideas as to how to proceed over the next few months included:

•  a letter to the Chief and Council or Mayor and Council of each community emphasizing the importance of community involvement and regional representation along with a one-pager to explain the context

•  A web site with a place for questions, which Mr. Pellerin could arrange to have answered

•  A contact list of all present and including the names of all 39 communities on the network, to be distributed via Dan Pellerin

It was also agreed that for now there would be three provincial “operators” – Crystal Chercoe (MB), Joë Lance (QC) and Dan Pellerin (ON). Once the regional groups are formed they can take charge from the operators.

Points in conclusion

One proposed scenario is that the association be made up of two representatives from each province, plus one non-voting member (the “operator”). A federal government representative from BRAND or NSI could also sit on the group as a non-voting member.

Participants recognized the importance as isolated indigenous peoples of coming together and recognizing that they share the same fears, dreams and vision. Sharing information and success stories would ensure future success. The network can also be used to revive and strengthen traditional knowledge and languages.