First Nations find a Quick Link to the

In a town where the closest urban centre is an eight-hour train ride away, high-speed Internet access is a pipe dream – or at least it was.

The First Nations community of Pukatawagon in Manitoba recently sought the assistance of Quick Link Communications (QLC) and Basking Ridge, N.J.-based Avaya to develop and deploy the infrastructure needed for high-speed Internet connections.

Called CampusNet, the solution from Calgary-based QLC delivers high-speed access using satellite and wireless technology. According to Patrick Hinds, vice-president of sales for QLC, CampusNet was designed for remote communities. CampusNet facilitates high-speed Internet access to remote communities by integrating satellite, caching, and point-to-multipoint technology. By applying satellite and wireless technologies to predetermined access points within the community, CampusNet is able to connect remote schools, administrative buildings, and homes to Internet and distance education content at high speeds.

“CampusNet (involves) two technologies,” Hinds said. “One is our two-way satellite system, which is connected to our Internet backbone here in Calgary, and it takes a ground-based wireless solution (the second technology) that allows you to distribute a single satellite feed out to many users. It is really focused on trying to get a cost-effective extension of the fibre-optic backbone in Calgary out to a rural community using two-way satellite.”

Hinds explained that QLC is eager to have the opportunity to extend high-speed access to typically underserved areas. He said that when the telcos look at rural Canada, all they see is cost.

Sherman Lewis, network administrator for Sakastew School where CampusNet has been deployed and Pukatawagon spokesperson, said that the Internet connection the community had prior to CampusNet was difficult to use because of the poor-quality phone-line connection.

“You were constantly getting cut off trying to negotiate a connection,” Lewis said. “It just wasn’t worth it for the school to spend all that money on trying to get the Internet with a phone line. It was basically impossible.”

Lewis said that CampusNet was deployed in Sakastew school in December of 2000 and has been very beneficial to the 2,100 students it serves.

“The level of education within the school is well below what it should be,” he said. “For the students who are motivated and who don’t have the money to leave the community or can’t get funding to get to a high school elsewhere, they are looking at taking high school courses over the Internet through a program that a college in The Pas, (Man.) is offering.”

According to Kelly Dudra, channel manager, data products western Canada for Avaya, the company’s wireless products are well-suited to be what he calls the final mile for many remote communities. QLC has integrated several wireless products from Avaya into CampusNet, including Avaya’s central outdoor router, remote outdoor router and access point products.

“What we are able to do is allow, through our wireless technologies, multiple individuals having access to one single bandwidth,” Dudra said. “It is very much an extension, so you allow organizations or communities who do not have high-speed access to get high-speed access and take advantage of all the applications that are currently on the Web. With the wireless play we have the ability of extending that bandwidth out to multiple sites in that community.”

QLC’s Hinds said that developing infrastructure in rural regions has become a niche opportunity and allows the company to operate applying a service that these communities need. He added that from QLC’s network operation centre in Calgary, the company can see, monitor and manage the link at all times. Hinds added that CampusNet has been deployed in other areas in Manitoba and QLC has additional contracts in the province as well as in the Northwest Territories. For information on CampusNet, visit Avaya is on the ‘net at