At FSET, we believe in innovation empowering people. Most of the time, we achieve this goal by helping others meet their needs, and in the case of Pikangikum First Nation, that need was high-speed internet.
Like many other remote Northern communities, Pikangikum was interested in securing a better and more efficient means of connectivity. Various telecommunication companies from across the region tried stepping up to the plate, but with terrestrial-based fibre connections being all they had to offer, practically every attempt to service the community equated to a swing and a miss. As a First Nation hundreds of kilometres away from any potential service centre, the logistics of even getting the right hardware in place from point A to point B were nightmarish to say the least. Even if it could happen, the signal strength just wouldn’t be enough to serve the community’s 3,000+ members.
Having been involved in the conversations for years, FSET knew firsthand just how badly Pikangikum Chief and Council wanted connectivity for their community. Not to mention how important it would be for practically every sector ranging from education to law enforcement, especially healthcare, to open the door for virtual service delivery during a global pandemic. FSET CEO David Brown knew he had to find a way to help, so he turned to none other than Elon Musk’s SpaceX, who around latter half of 2020 was hard at work beta testing their own brand-new Starlink technology.
Starlink is a cutting-edge high-speed internet service delivered by satellites in low-Earth orbit (LEO) that form humanmade constellations capable of beaming broadband signals to receivers installed at the ground level. With no wires necessary, the technology wasn’t just the answer to the inadequacy of fibre for remote Northern communities, but exactly what Pikangikum needed to suit its longstanding connectivity needs.
Determined to provide digital equity, Brown began making phone calls and eventually got SpaceX on the line. Lo and behold, they too thought of Pikangikum as a perfect fit for Starlink technology. Brown subsequently turned his attention to the Canadian federal government and began lobbying with officials to get permission for Pikangikum to become the first community in the entire country to receive the service, period. By November 2020, everyone had signed off the stage was officially set for FSET to deliver Starlink to the First Nation.
Within 15 minutes of FSET technicians landing in the community, Pikangikum had internet speeds its community members previously thought impossible – the average download speed instantly went from 60 Kbps to 130 Mbps, roughly 2,166 per cent faster than it was before. For the first time ever, those living in Pikangikum could get a college education from their homes; doctors could see patients virtually, helping stop the spread of Covid-19; policing, administration, and even the ability for families to stream video all saw unthinkable improvements. Thanks to SpaceX and Starlink, as well as the dedication of Brown and the rest of the FSET team, Pikangikum gained digital equity at long last.
Since enjoying success with Pikangikum, FSET has begun connecting several other First Nation community partners across the North by helping them get the service as well. In fact, one out of every hundred Starlink dishes shipped globally by SpaceX have ended up in local Indigenous communities thanks to FSET serving as an intermediary. As of May 2022, more than 2,490 Starlink kits have been installed in remote First Nations by our technicians, with more and more units are being shipped out for installation on reserve with each passing day.
There is nothing simple about SpaceX blasting rockets and satellites into space, but with fewer competitors and far less red tape, it remains our belief that Starlink technology is the best, and perhaps the only viable way to provide remote communities with high-speed internet. Whereas terrestrial-based fibre connections were tabled, but ultimately failed for years and years, it only took minutes for Starlink to do wonders for Pikangikum and every other First Nation it’s been setup in.
FSET is proud to work with SpaceX to achieve our shared goal of connecting the North to high-speed internet, but it should be noted that our professional relationship is strictly collaborative in nature and FSET is not an official Starlink partner. To learn more about the technology and the services FSET offers, please visit https://www.fset.inc/starlink/.