New Indigenous-owned Internet provider launches, forms strategic partnership with SaskTel to strengthen connectivity for First Nation communities
October 4, 2022
Photo Credit: CP Images
Meadow Lake Tribal Council Resource Development Inc. (MLTC RDI) and Wood River Controls (WRC) have partnered to launch Beaver River Broadband (BRB), a new majority Indigenous owned internet service provider. Through a strategic partnership with SaskTel focused on delivering improved internet services to underserved areas across Saskatchewan, BRB will bring improved high-speed internet access to Saskatchewan First Nation and rural communities.
Beaver River Broadband works with communities to build specialized fixed-wireless solutions for broadband access. Through SaskTel’s Rural Broadband Partnership Program (RBPP), BRB will utilize portions of the Crown corporations' network to deliver high quality and reliable internet connections to more Indigenous and rural households. This allows BRB to fill current gaps in service in a timely manner and to scale the level of service to meet each location’s specific needs.
This new enterprise will also increase Indigenous participation in the economy, with financial benefits returned to the nine Nations under the Meadow Lake Tribal Council (MLTC), and lead to job creation in communities where service is being deployed. BRB will provide on-the-job training for community members with longer-term opportunities for people to stay on as the company expands service to other locations.
BRB is launching with service to five communities, beginning with the Cowessess First Nation this fall. From there, BRB will look to expand its service offerings to Ministikwan Lake Cree Nation, Eagles Lake, Moudy Lake, Birch Narrows Dene Nation, and more communities as it’s able, including to the nine member Nations of the MLTC.
First announced last fall, SaskTel’s RBPP has already been used to bring improved broadband service to a number of underserved Indigenous communities in the province, including the Peepeekisis Cree Nation and Muscowpetung Saulteaux First Nation.
“This new enterprise represents a once in a generation opportunity for Indigenous ownership and economic participation by the nine MLTC First Nations in the internet service provider industry. Beaver River Broadband aspires to be a leader in this sector, and will bring an essential service to Indigenous and remote communities that supports Indigenous self-determination — enabling our communities to improve access to education, employment, and essential programs and services for their members,” said MLTC Tribal Chief Richard Ben. “Thank you to our Chiefs, Elders and members for their contributions and commitment and to John Degraauw and the team at Wood River Controls for partnering on this venture that will provide benefits for the next seven generations.”
“Beaver River Broadband strives to lead the way in connecting more communities in all corners of the province through a network that not only employs industry leading equipment and delivers reliable service, but also minimizes its ecological footprint by harnessing the grid alongside wind and solar energy. Wood River Controls is proud to partner with MLTC RDI on this enterprise, which will provide financial returns to the nine First Nations under MLTC and create career opportunities for First Nation people while strengthening connectivity for Indigenous and rural communities across Saskatchewan,” said John Degraauw, CEO of Wood River Controls.
“Today’s announcement is an example of what can be achieved when SaskTel, Saskatchewan’s independent broadband providers, and Indigenous leaders work together in full partnership,” said Don Morgan, Minister Responsible for SaskTel. “As a solid Internet connection becomes more essential to the economy and everyday life, partnerships such as these will help narrow the digital divide in our province while giving First Nations communities control of their digital future.”
“At SaskTel, we recognize that Saskatchewan’s strong and diversified broadband sector has the tools, resources and innovation needed to empower communities of all sizes to carve their own path to better connectivity and we are proud to continue growing our partnership program to bring more transformative projects to fruition,” said Doug Burnett, SaskTel President and CEO. “This partnership with Beaver River Broadband is a natural next step in ensuring SaskTel continues to deliver on our commitment to support a more connected Saskatchewan.”
About MLTC RDI and Beaver River Broadband
MLTC RDI is the corporate holding company for all of MLTC’s business interests. The Meadow Lake Tribal Council (MLTC) established MLTC Resource Development Inc. (MLTC RDI) to focus on increasing MLTC’s ability to meaningfully participate in Saskatchewan’s economy.
MLTC RDI, through its new company Beaver River Broadband, is a registered Internet Service Provider able to bring specialized solutions to communities needing internet access. Services are designed with the community needs first and foremost.
Beaver River Broadband is a proud Indigenous partnership, with MLTC RDI owning 51 per cent and Wood River Controls owning 49 per cent of the new entity.
About Wood River Controls
Wood River Controls is Saskatchewan’s fastest rural internet provider, proudly based in Lafleche, SK. WRC offers residential and business network connectivity with the ability to reach all corners of the province, given enough local interest. WRC delivers truly unlimited, high-speed internet with specialized fixed wireless solutions and a network composed of industry leading equipment and fueled by a hybrid of wind and solar to ensure the smallest ecological footprint while providing the best possible service.
SaskTel is the leading Information and Communications Technology (ICT) provider in Saskatchewan, with approximately $1.3 billion in annual revenue and over 1.4 million customer connections including more than 647,000 wireless accesses, 273,000 wireline network accesses, 293,000 internet and data accesses, 110,000 maxTV service subscribers, and 78,000 security monitoring customers. SaskTel and its wholly-owned subsidiaries offer a wide range of ICT products and services including competitive voice, data and Internet services, wireless data services, maxTV services, data centre services, cloud-based services, security monitoring services, advertising services, and international software and consulting services. SaskTel and its wholly-owned subsidiaries have a workforce of approximately 3,300 full-time equivalent employees (FTEs). Visit SaskTel at www.sasktel.com.