Conservatives celebrate Starlink approval for Satellite Internet for Pikangikum First Nation

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Kenora, ON – Pikangikum First Nation will be the first community in Canada to be connected to Starlink’s satellite internet network.

Kenora-based IT company FSET  collaborated with SpaceX about the remote community’s desperate need for internet to help secure the project.  On November 26th, FSET’s work to launch the project and begin connecting the community gets underway.

“Access to fast, reliable, and even the most basic internet services enjoyed by most Canadians is long overdue for Pikangikum First Nation; especially for its children, youth, and young adults who make up 75% of the population,” FSET founders Nicole and David Brown said in a statement.  “We are thrilled with to work with SpaceX and  the delivery of Starlink for Pikangikum  – recognizing the community’s unique needs and the opportunities that connectivity will create to enhance community outcomes. With all regulatory approvals now in place, this important step towards equality of opportunity begins today.”

Kenora MP Eric Melillo was active behind-the-scenes as SpaceX navigated the government’s approvals process.  The Kenora riding MP, who serves as the Conservative Party’s Shadow Minister for Northern Affairs, reached out to Innovation, Science and Industry Minister Navdeep Bains to stress the importance of the project.

Pikangikum First Nation Chief Dean Owen stated: “This is a significant day for the community of Pikangikum First Nation. The delivery of Starlink internet services will transform our abilities to deliver local services, create economic opportunities, access education, training, health and wellness supports, and improve the quality of life for our children, youth and families. We thank our local MP, and his colleagues who advocated for the project in Ottawa, our partners at FSET and SpaceX, and all those in Government who worked towards the approval of these services and the realization of this opportunity for Pikangikum.”

MP Melillo believes technologies like Starlink could be the solution to the Internet crisis across remote Canada. “Rural and northern Canada has been consistently underserved when it comes to internet access,” Melillo stated. “With everyday activities moving increasingly online, it’s clear that innovative solutions are needed if we don’t want to be left behind.”

Edmonton Centre MP James Cumming, Conservative Shadow Minister for Innovation, Science and Industry, also worked with FSET and SpaceX to push the project. Speaking in the House of Commons in September, Cumming spoke about the importance of federal approval of SpaceX’s license.

MP Cumming says he’s excited to see the project move forward. “We’re not just talking about connecting a community to internet,” he said. “We’re talking about connecting them to the rest of Canada, to a whole new economy, education and healthcare. This wasn’t just important, it was essential, and I can’t wait to see how this pilot project is going to launch the Pikangikum community forward.”

Thanks to the collaborative work of FSET, SpaceX and Starlink, arrangements to connect the community to Starlink were put in place and were ready to move forward as soon as federal regulatory approvals were granted for SpaceX’s low orbit satellite constellation to provide high-speed internet for Canadians.  With those approvals granted on November 6th, Starlink installation kits began arriving in Kenora immediately.  FSET workers will be travelling/travelled to Pikangikum by plane on November 26th to begin Phase 1 of the installation project – installing and connecting a collection of institutions and buildings that serve key functions for the community, such as the Mental Health Hub and Band Office. Phase 2 will begin connecting residences. Both phases are expected to be complete before the end of 2020.

Reliable internet access will have a transformational effect on remote fly-in communities, opening up access to everything from e-commerce to virtual healthcare, education, and social services.

“Starlink will be a game-changer for Pikangikum and will hopefully provide a model for ensuring internet access for all Canadians, regardless of where they live,” MP Melillo concluded.

Cumming is also optimistic about the potential of innovative technologies to connect all regions with internet. “We’ve seen a similar private-sector-led initiative work tremendously with our neighbors down south,” Cumming noted. “I think that all of us who have been pushing for the need for connectivity are excited to see this project take off. It looks like the future is finally here, and the goal of connecting all Canadians is in sight.”

Quick Facts:

  • FSET will be posting live updates throughout the week on its social media channels, including photos and video, as it flies to Pikangikum and begins Phase 1 of this installation project. You can follow the project at @FSETera on Twitter, on Instagram, and on Facebook.
  • Pikangikum First Nation is a remote fly-in community 225 km north of Kenora, with an on-reserve population of approximately 2300 (75% of whom are under the age of 25). The community struggles with boil water advisories, housing shortages, lack of access to services, health and addictions crises, and high youth suicide rates.
  • FSET Information Technology is based in Kenora and founded by Nicole and David Brown. FSET has long served as a Managed Service Provider (IT) provider for the community, including for the Pikangikum Health Authority, and advocates on their behalf for improved connectivity.
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