ECN completing Quebec’s fastest internet service network

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According to Eeyou Communications Network’s Alfred Loon, internet speeds in the Cree communities isn’t just on par with service in southern cities, it may now be even better.

“ECN has built an all fibre-optic service to the 14 Cree and James Bay centres south of La Grande. It currently operates with world-class internet standards and serves major institutions with tele-health, education and governance. It is capable of delivering the same (or better) quality of internet service as any provider in Montreal or Toronto,” said Loon.

One of those specialty services allows doctors in Val-d’Or or Montreal to see real-time information transmitted from a clinic technician operating instruments, such as an ultrasound transducer probe. It also allows a patient to consult a psychiatrist in privacy through the secure network, without having to leave their local support system. At the Justice Department, the same network makes it possible for people in custody to confidentially speak with their lawyer.

Cree Board of Health and Social Services Chair Bella Moses Petawabano noted that technology has changed the way medicine is delivered to Cree communities.

“ECN meant we could introduce tele-health,” she observed. “For patients, we see positive results in diabetes case management, ophthalmology and at-risk pregnancies. Our remote hospitals can now provide dialysis supported by tele-nephrology, tele-psychiatry and we can reduce travel. And we can recruit doctors more easily and reduce the patient-to-doctor ratio.”

ECN’s powerful network makes all of this possible by bringing services directly to people without removing them from their communities. They are currently completing its “last-mile service” of home fibre-optic service, which will be in operation by April 2018.

“ECN will be the first internet service provider to offer a fully symmetrical gigabit internet service in Quebec. ECN will be thus providing the best internet service in the province. All communities will be hooked up simultaneously before April 1 – once the construction is complete. Work crews are currently scheduled to begin in the communities in 4 to 6 weeks,” Loon explained.

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“Eeyou Istchee is becoming less remote,” said former Grand Chief Ted Moses. “Distances can now be calculated in microseconds. With our own advanced communication services, we have become a full partner in the information technology economy, a sector that in the past has been severely inaccessible.”

According to Loon, the installation of the technology necessary on the lines throughout the region has been fully funded – no band council has been asked to contribute. Loon said that all councils supported an ECN application for federal funding and the shortfall was bridged with grants and loans from the Cree Nation Government and ECN itself.

He noted that funding is based on the delivery of a service of not less than 50 MB a second to every home for a retail price of $55 per month. Based on the number of households, Loon said ECN will be able to meet the standard.

“The projected service will be more than internet. It will also include a full (over 150 channels) television service with all major networks and specialty services and a telephone service with toll-free inter-community dialing. In addition, services such as streaming channels will be fully accessible. The basic three-services offering will cost about $155 a month. That price is comparable to any service available in Montreal or Toronto,” said Loon.

Loon said that ECN will provide the fastest internet service in the province with the first fully symmetrical gigabit internet service in Quebec (1000 megabits per second in download and upload).

Speeds up to 250 MB or 1 GB per second will also be available, as will unlimited downloads. A set-top digital recorder box that can record and store programs for later viewing is likewise on offer, said Loon.

The CRTC even cited ECN in a recent report on industry innovation as being “unique in Canada as an advanced network – despite its remote location.”

“It is internet that works when you need it, even if everyone else in the community is using it at the same time,” Loon observed. “It does not use old or recycled technology; it is top-of-the-line state-of-the-art technology that is based solely on fibre-optic technology – no microwaves or telephone copper or cable coax copper wires in the ECN system.”

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