Fond du Lac Denesuline First Nation Community reLAY Project

Fond du Lac Denesuline First Nation Community reLAY Project

Photo of Farren Pische

By Farren Pische
Fond du Lac, SK

Hello, my name is Farren Pische and I’ll be going over a bit of the general idea of this project, but first off not without introducing myself and what I’ve learned in partaking in this project.

I’m 18 and mostly do my own thing in town. Town in my case is Fond du Lac Denesuline First Nation in northwest Saskatchewan on Lake Athabasca. There’s an ice road but it’s mostly fly in. It’s part of the Athabasca Basin, around Uranium City, Stony Rapids, etc. About 1,200 people live here. I play guitar and stuff. I love walking around in the wooded areas, it calms the mind.

Now onto what I’ve learned: the things I’ve learned are pretty cool, like managing access points remotely, testing internet speeds and working as part of a team. Now that I have some of this skill set I believe it would be quite easy to do again.

Moving on to the idea of this project, this whole idea came to be, because of reBOOT Canada and the help of Nicky Adam, IT lead at Father Gamache Memorial School, my school at the time. June 2022 reBOOT Canada was in contact with Nicky through the Athabasca Denesuline Education Authority and pitched a project to provide free wi-fi at some popular place in town, like a cafe or hangout area using local youth to run the project. Nicky thought I would be a good fit and we went ahead with it.

For a location we know we needed somewhere that had electricity (obviously), an existing internet connection, easy access but security as well. In FDL, the hangout area in town is the Rec Centre upstairs at the hockey arena. I’ve seen people hang there a lot, it would for sure make sense to put the access point in there.

Fond Du Lac Recreation Centre

The arena is important to this town because it’s where hockey is played, and also used as a hangout place for kids in town. It’s used mostly every night during the winter months, but sometimes during the spring and summer months as well from what I’ve seen.

The whole reason for this is basically about how hard it is to get affordable decent internet when you’re not south. I’ll be going over internet pricing. The internet here isn’t too great for how much you pay a month, aka $90 CAD a month. That price will get you only about 6 or 7 megabits per second, not very fast. I overheard a conversation when I used to go to the school here about how much the school pays per month for wifi, for around 50 megabits per second for the entire building, it costs $1,500 CAD which is outrageous for that speed.

Due to the cost, I’m assuming most people don’t have the greatest speeds in terms of internet considering $90 CAD gives you only 6-7 megabits per second. There is an option like Starlink that is $140 CAD, but you’d have to buy the setup gear required to use it ($599 new, $399 refurb) and most people around here usually don’t have money so that’s not an option.

The Arena access point has been getting used a lot as of recently, based on data shown on the Meraki managing tool for access points. It’s quite cool seeing it be used and such for basic apps like music or chatting apps like Snapchat etc. It’s increased range helps out a bunch with connections with devices.

Meraki dashboard showing network usage
You can see how more people are using it during events like this at the arena, pretty cool to witness.
Meraki dashboard showing network usage

This is the data the access point got the last few weeks, as shown, it works quite nicely and doesn’t seem to have any issues especially with that amount of recent users using the access point.

Moving on, the equipment used in this project was a few things, one being the access point itself and some other basic essentials used to make it work.

The access point is a Cisco Meraki MR74 Wireless Access Point. It seems to have good range and other stuff like efficient wi-fi speeds when used, a basic power supply is used to power it, along with surge protectors just in case there is a power surge. Always need to be safe with that stuff! The MR74 was provided for the project by the Cisco Foundation, thanks Cisco. The other equipment was with the help of reBOOT Canada’s funders including CIRA (Canadian Internet Registration Authority). Also some funding provided by Indigenous Services Canada and private foundations. Here’s what the device looks like, before it’s fully installed:

Cisco Meraki MR-74 Wireless Access Point sitting on a desk

Onto the last bits, we couldn’t have made this project work without the help of Nicky Adam, who is the local school’s IT guy. He’s a pretty smart and resourceful guy, he gave some pointers on how the access point and stuff should be set up. He even was the guy to finally get on a ladder and permanently mount and connect the access point to the ceiling of the Rec Centre.

Here’s where we tested and configured the device:

Cisco Meraki MR-74 Wireless Access Point sitting on a desk
Here’s the device permanently installed on the ceiling:
Cisco Meraki MR-74 Wireless Access Point mounted on ceiling

It took some time to get to this stage in the project. We started in June 2022 and this photo was taken in September 2023! But we made it. It took a couple of days to get the Meraki access point up properly cabled once it was securely mounted but we were successful with it!

The Fond du Lac Denesuline First Nation Community reLAY Project has been a pretty cool experience. It gives me hope that we can improve things in our community. If you’d like to support more projects like this, donating some cash or a working computer to reBOOT Canada would really help. Your support can make a difference, and it’s a step toward helping other places connect.