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Wireless connectivity project on Cold Lake First Nations getting a financial boost through ICIP

Alberta's Minister of Infrastructure Prasad Panda was in the Cold Lake area on Tuesday to announce the provincial government's financial commitment to the Cold Lake First Nations LTE Fixed Wireless Upgrade Project.
Minister of Infrastructure CLFN
Alberta's Minister of Infrastructure Prasad Panda was in Cold Lake to announce the government's plans to upgrade Cold Lake First Nations' broadband.

COLD LAKE - Those living and working in Cold Lake First Nations (CLFN) will have better access to something that is no longer considered a luxury, but an essential. 

Alberta's Minister of Infrastructure, Prasad Panda, was in Cold Lake this week to announce the provincial government would be financially assisting the local First Nations community in their LTE Fixed Wireless Upgrade Project to a tune of $361,066. 

"This project will improve telecommunications infrastructure on the reserve and will result in enhanced Internet access for all community members living on the reserve. It will result in increased opportunity for trading, education, and economic and business opportunities,” detailed CLFN Chief Roger Marten. 

The project, which is funded through the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program (ICIP) is expected to start later this year, once all regulatory and financial requirements are met, said Marten. 

“After the pandemic, all of us realized everyone requires reliable and stable Internet to do their day-to-day activities, whether that’s working from home or for students to do learning from home. It’s an essential, it’s no longer a luxury,” Panda stated during Tuesday's announcement outside of Casino Dene. 

Bonnyville-Cold Lake-St. Paul MLA David Hanson said, “We learned quite a bit during the pandemic. We shut down schools and kids without connectivity were on the losing end of that. We need to ensure we have connectivity for everybody, that includes the kids on CLFN.” 

Through the federal government's ICIP, the province has roughly $3.66 billion in federal dollars to invest in infrastructure projects that strengthen economy and build resilient communities, something Marten believes the CLFN wireless upgrade will do. 

“Beyond the economic opportunities this project will provide, we are proud to be improving overall community and wellbeing through this increased Internet capacity.” 

CLFN Band Coun. Deion Blackman agreed. 

“As we evolve, seeing that transition toward reliance on technology for meeting every day, it’s definitely brought it into a light where it’s a necessity not just a luxury for a lot of people,” he expressed. “With it being the 21st century and that huge jump in technological advance, it’s going to be that much more needed going into the future and a very key and vital part of people’s lives."

Cold Lake Mayor Craig Copeland congratulated the community on their successful application. 

"Their area here is huge, and I think the ability for everybody to have Internet no matter where you live on CLFN is fantastic," he expressed. “This is just going to improve the quality of life that much more."

"It’s good news for CLFN. I know going through the whole process of having kids at home and trying to have them all connected that this is going to be a benefit, certainly in regards to business opportunities for the nation as well,” MD of Bonnyville Reeve Greg Sawchuk noted. 

This is one of many projects approved for ICIP dollars throughout the Cold Lake region.

In addition to the money allocated to the CLFN LTE Fixed Wireless Upgrade, $650,000 has been dedicated to the Cold Lake Travel Fleet Enhancement, and over $907,000 for the Cold Lake Community Trails Network Enhancements.

The total cost of the ICIP projects in Cold Lake rings in at approximately $3.9 million, with a total of 22 jobs created - two through the CLFN project, four through the fleet enhancement, and five from the trail network upgrades. 

Meagan MacEachern, Bonnyville Nouvelle