Internet connectivity is crucial for education in remote First Nation communities due to its transformative impact on access to resources, learning opportunities, and educational outcomes.
Since late 2020, FSET has been collaborating with SpaceX in a groundbreaking collaboration to bring Starlink broadband internet technology to underserved communities and First Nations across Northwestern Ontario. This initiative aims to bridge the digital divide, especially critical in the post-Covid-19 era, and empower Indigenous learners by revolutionizing connectivity. Starlink serves as a blueprint and a concrete solution, driving digital equity and catalyzing educational advancement for Indigenous students on reserve.
FSET has established a partnership with the Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) in conjunction with the Ministry of Education – Indigenous Education Office in late 2021. This collaboration is dedicated to closing the achievement gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous students. As of August 15, 2023, this joint effort has successfully facilitated Starlink internet access across 38 distinct communities within NAN territory, connecting over 1,700 homes, schools, and educational resource centres. Many of the schools and education resource centres were connected via Starlink well before business service was available publicly.
Furthermore, FSET has also collaborated with the Anishinaabeg of Kabapikotawangag Resource Council (AKRC) which has enabled the connection of over 200 student households within their 5 member communities. Although initial Starlink capacity posed challenges in certain areas, subsequent capacity growth allowed these communities to place additional orders, ensuring that each student’s home was equipped with high-speed internet access.
Whereas the Canadian Government is aiming for each home and business across the country to have access to internet speeds of at least 50 megabits per second (Mbps) download/10 Mbps upload, the signals in some of AKRC and NAN communities were previously as slow at 1.75 Mbps. With Starlink broadband capabilities, speeds upwards of 300 Mpbs are a reality. Students can now seamlessly engage in synchronous education and access a myriad of unique learning opportunities that were previously inaccessible.
“We are pleased to partner with FSET and we thank everyone involved for making this exciting project a reality,” said Deputy Grand Chief Bobby Narcisse of NAN. “Reliable internet connectivity is a necessity for our communities to take full advantage of online learning opportunities and remotely access many important services such as health care, social services, and justice. The Northern Starlink project will allow our members to gain access to the services they require, and our students to access the education supports they need to succeed. Knowledge is key in the information age, and this technology is bringing the world to their fingertips.”
Nicole Brown, FSET’s Chief Operating Officer, underlined the significance of the initiative, emphasizing, “For us, this is all about building on the work we’ve been doing with our First Nation community partners, keeping up momentum to close the digital divide and continuing to level the playing field for Indigenous youth in the North. Starlink is a time-efficient and cost-effective solution that can easily solve the problem of lacking broadband internet for remote communities, and that is exactly what it is doing for First Nations in NAN territory.”
Internet connectivity revolutionizes education in remote First Nation communities by democratizing access to information, fostering interactive learning experiences, and expanding educational horizons. It addresses geographic barriers and empowers students, educators, and the community as a whole to engage in learning and personal growth.
With FSET and SpaceX’s efforts, Northern Ontario’s Indigenous communities are experiencing vast educational and technological improvements, as Starlink propels them into the digital age, redefining their opportunities and future prospects.