Attawapiskat gets cell phones
Attawapiskat’s new cell phone service is a hit in the community, with some families purchasing two or three cell phones.
“We’re selling them to people of all ages,” said Sally Braun, project support for Attawapiskat Resources Inc., which is owned by the community. “There may be one or two or three cell phones per household. When we did our community launch at the end of March, people were coming in and buying phones for several household members or family members.”
About 112 cell phones have been sold in the community of about 1,700 residents to date and Braun has ordered another 85.
“We’re projecting 258 cell phone users in the first year,” Braun said.
Braun said tests indicate the cell phone range extends to about 32 kilometers to the north, 15 to the west, 22 to the south and 15 to the east.
“But we’re also getting reports it may be a little further to the east,” Braun said. “A lot of our hunters go out to Akimiski Island, and we’re getting reports the cell phones are working on the westernmost tip of the island.”
Akimiski Island is the large island in James Bay, located more than 20 kilometres to the east of Attawapiskat.
“We put the antennas at the 120 foot level,” Braun said. “We’re basically flat land here without a lot of interference. There are trees, but they’re not that high.”
Braun said many community members are currently out on the land, so they will be asked for feedback on the cell phone service out on the land once they return to the community around May 1.
“Most Canadians don’t even think twice about being able to use their cell phones,” said Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence. “For us, this is a real achievement. I commend the hard work of Attawapiskat Resources Inc. and its partners for getting this service up and running.”
Attawapiskat Resources Inc. partnered with Keewaytinook Okimakanak’s Kuhkenah Network, which is partnered with Dryden Municipal Telephone System/Dryden Mobility, to provide the high-speed cell phone service through connections to the Western James Bay Telecom Network fibre optic cable.
“Community members will certainly benefit from improved safety and quality-of-life,” said Steve Hookimaw, ARI’s chairperson. “But it is important to realize that this development will also improve Attawapiskat’s commercial infrastructure, allowing for more residents and visitors to conduct business here.”
The cell phone service received financial support from the Emerging Technologies Program of the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation and the Rural Economic Development Program of the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.
“This initiative will contribute to rural and northern prosperity by supporting job creation, expanding educational opportunities and helping to build strong and safe communities,” said
Rick Bartolucci, minister of Northern Development and Mines and chair of the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation.
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