Indigenous Connectivity

Indigenous Connectivity Institute partners with North End Connect for Winnipeg community network

The inaugural ICI grant will support affordable broadband in Winnipeg’s North End

Indigenous Connectivity Institute partners with North End Connect for Winnipeg community network

Most urban centers in North America have reliable high-speed Internet connectivity. However, there are often pockets of these same cities — typically in low-income communities — where broadband is not available or not affordable for many residents. The North End of Winnipeg is one such place.

As part of the Indigenous Connectivity Institute’s mission to support Indigenous-led broadband projects, we are thrilled to award the inaugural grant to North End Connect — a project working to overcome digital barriers in Winnipeg’s North End neighborhood, home to Canada’s largest urban Indigenous population.

Learn more about the North End Connect project:

Overcoming a legacy of exclusion

While much of downtown Winnipeg is well-equipped with lightning-fast fiber internet, service in the North End is slow, unreliable, and unaffordable for many residents. Most families live without internet access at home and many businesses struggle with the cost for the connectivity they need.

Sitting across the tracks from Winnipeg’s commercial center, the North End has long faced economic, political, and social barriers. Originally built to house immigrant workers from Eastern Europe and later home to a burgeoning Indigenous population, the North End has seen decades of under-investment and disenfranchisement. The digital divide is the latest chapter in a long history of exclusion, exacerbating a cycle of economic struggle.

To help change this story, a coalition of community-based organizations including Indigenous Vision for the North End, the Internet Society Manitoba Chapter, Computers for Schools Manitoba, Broadband Communications North, and the Manitoba Research Alliance formed North End Connect to build a fast, affordable internet network to serve the community.

A network for, by, and in the North End 

The project is deeply embedded in the community — building a solution with, and not just for, residents. This included hiring Indigenous research assistants to conduct a wide consultation with residents to understand what they want and how to address the full range of barriers that prevent people from getting online and using the internet.

The first antennas, recently installed on key rooftops, will beam internet from the heart of downtown into the North End. This fixed-wireless community network will grow over time, providing fast, reliable internet to residents in low-income housing units at no- or low-cost.

Beyond infrastructure, North End Connect is also working to help residents overcome other barriers, providing device access, local tech support, and digital literacy training so that the internet really is for everyone.

The grant from the Indigenous Connectivity Institute will support the project by funding a full-time coordinator position needed to get refurbished computers into the hands of residents, host digital literacy classes, and begin to build North End Connect’s Digital Navigator program to connect and support the network’s users. This funding will also help with project management and technical expertise while the network is being built out.

Receiving the grant, Joel Templeman, Executive Director of the Internet Society Manitoba Chapter said: “This funding is critical for us to deliver programming in the neighbourhood and is already creating jobs and opportunities. From this foundation, we will build the network of people who will build a network of computers.”

Community leaders Shelley Anderson and Jewel Pierre-Roscelli joined us at the 2023 Indigenous Connectivity Summit in Anchorage, Alaska to give an update on the project.

Watch Shelley and Jewel’s ICS presentation:

This growing network will ensure that more families in the North End have the internet they need to work, learn, and play — just like the rest of the city. We’re proud to support this community to build solutions to digital equity on their terms.

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