Thanks to a satellite network managed by a First Nation organization, Ontario’s most remote communities could participate in the provincial election.

Early Thursday morning, Fort Severn First Nation Band Manager George Kakekaspan learned his community couldn’t phone in their polling station results.

That’s because the Anik F2 satellite, which supports voice and data services to northern Ontario, experienced a ‘technical anomaly’ that wiped out connections in the fly-in Washaho Cree community.

“We opened up the band office this morning and tried phoning with the land lines, and nothing ... We’ve been using cellphones and IP phones all day,” said Kakekaspan, reached through his Keewaytinook Mobile cellphone. “It’s taken us a long time to get this far. We’ve been pushing it with KNET a long time — and it’s worked out pretty good for us.”

 

Fort Severn, along with 11 other remote Ontario First Nations, retained communications services on Thursday through the Northern Indigenous Community Satellite Network, or NICSN.

NICSN is a co-operative satellite provider operated out of Sioux Lookout and managed by KO-KNET services, the telecommunications arm of Keewaytinook Okimakanak Tribal Council.

Since August 2009, NICSN has used the Anik F3 satellite — an arrangement that enabled it to continue delivering services despite Thursday’s troubles with Anik F2.

“This morning, we heard Kasabonika Lake wasn’t taking phone calls, then we heard everyone’s KA satellite dishes were down. All of these are on Anik F2, and it really clicked in when people said they couldn’t phone up north,” said Terrance Burnard from NICSN.

Thanks to NICSN, community polling stations worked with KNET through email and voice-over-IP phones to transfer election results to the south.

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