The provincial government is spending $3 million to bring high-speed internet to Gitanyow and Stewart in northwestern B.C. through Meziadin Junction Limited Partnership, a company owned by the Gitanyow First Nation.

Called the Algyax Annuuhlx (Talking Drums project), the plan is to serve more than 500 households.

“Our current cable internet system is very old and fails us on a regular basis. It has limited speeds and capacity,” said Gitanyow deputy chief councillor Leslie McLean.

There will be no fees expected from the households beyond the expected monthly internet package cost.

“Many rural Indigenous communities across B.C. lack access to high-speed internet, infrastructure that is essential for First Nations’ voices to be heard in today’s digital age,” said Mark Starlund, general manager of the Meziadin Junction Limited Partnership. “Connectivity opens the door to enhanced economic opportunities for First Nations communities.”

The infrastructure will enable access to high-speed broadband internet speeds of more than 50 megabits per second for downloads and 10 Mbps for uploads.

The two communities’ existing Telus infrastructure was built in the 70s and relies on weak microwaves.

The internet will rely on a fibre optic line installed as part of the construction package when the BC Hydro-owned Northwest Transmission Line was built in the early 2010s.

The signal will be broken out at Meziadin and then transmitted via microwave installations to the communities.

Meziadin Junction Partnerships is putting in $900,000 in addition to the provincial subsidy.

In March 2022, the province and federal government agreed to spend up to $830 million to expand high-speed internet services to all rural and First Nations households in the province by 2027.

“We are committed to connecting every B.C. community by 2027 to provide a foundation for their growth, and to support people to be able to stay and invest in the places they call home,” said provincial citizens’ services minister Lisa Beare.