By Jake Cardinal, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
(ANNews) – On June 28, 2021 it was announced that the governments of Canada and Alberta would be investing in wireless broadband infrastructure for First Nations located within the province.
More than $2.9 million will be funnelled into two broadband and wireless projects in Saddle Lake Cree Nation and Cold Lake First Nations.
The projects are funded under the Rural and Northern Communities Infrastructure Stream of the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program. The conditional funding will be dependant on federal requirements regarding Indigenous consultation and environmental impact assessments.
“Projects like the ones we are announcing today in Saddle Lake and Cold Lake First Nations are about more than connectivity—they’re a lifeline. Since November 2015, our government has invested over $42 million in 42 projects to connect more than 35,000 households in Alberta to high-speed Internet,” said Prairies Minister Jim Carr, on behalf of Maryam Monsef, Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Rural Economic Development.
“We will continue investing in vital infrastructure projects, so that every Albertan, no matter where they live, is able to access their full potential.”
A project in Saddle Lake Cree Nation will receive more than $2.6 million in federal funding. This project will focus on upgrading the internet and cellular infrastructure for the Nation, which will improve the resilience of the broadband and cellular connectivity.
Ken Large, director of Public Works and Housing for Saddle Lake First Nation, said they are “excited to have improved access to cellular and broadband communication.”
“Through the last year during COVID-19 our community has been challenged with broadband capacity. This important project will provide our Nation with new opportunities for improved education, economic growth and critical service delivery.”
“Through this partnership with the federal and provincial government, Saddle Lake Cree Nation members will experience an improved quality of life on reserve,” concluded Large.
Meanwhile, a project in Cold Lake First Nations will receive $241,544 in federal funding. The goal of this project is to install long term Evolution equipment on both existing and new towers.
Chief Roger Marten of Cold Lake First Nations said, “Our nation is excited to be upgrading our existing broadband network and is thankful for the support of the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program.”
“Increased internet connectivity is a priority for our community members and is something that we have been striving towards for several years. The new infrastructure will lead to more opportunities for training, education, and entrepreneurship but will also increase overall community well-being.”
Both Canada and Alberta’s governments have stated that providing communities with reliable and sustainable infrastructure is a priority.
Prasad Panda, Alberta’s Minister of Infrastructure, said that “the Alberta government is pleased to endorse these broadband and wireless projects that will help improve the lives and livelihoods of families and businesses in Saddle Lake Cree Nation and Cold Lake First Nations and neighbouring areas.”
“The provision of reliable digital connectivity is critical to supporting learning opportunities, social activities, economic development and community growth within these regions.”