First Mile Connectivity Consortium (FMCC)
Working together to change digital policy to support Indigenous broadband at the First Mile
Across Canada, many rural and remote First Nations communities lack access to affordable and adequate Internet connectivity. Our best practice involved working together through the FMCC association to mobilize research and community stories housed on our website and informed by a decade of research through the First Nations Innovation project. We presented this evidence at major public hearings held by the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), to advocate for changes to digital regulation and policy.
Our Best Practices initiative is inspired by decades of work undertaken by Indigenous peoples to take ownership and control of information and communication technologies. Indigenous organizations and communities have demonstrated success stories of digital innovation. Despite challenges of geography and cost, Indigenous peoples have always innovated to build, operate and maintain broadband infrastructure and services.
By intervening in a major regulatory hearing, we aimed to push government through an open, public consultation process aimed at shaping broadband development in Canada. Federal agencies can shape a policy and regulatory framework that supports the aspirations of communities and regions as well as industry.
Our team of First Nations technology organizations and university-based researchers are working together to raise public awareness of both challenges and successes. Along with communicating these issues to the general public, we also aim to leverage public hearings to present evidence and ideas generated in partnership with these communities to inform policy and regulatory frameworks to better support the self-determined development activities already being undertaken by First Nations communities and technology organizations.
Making a Difference:
To make a difference, we:
• Mobilize Indigenous communities and organizations to participate in policy consultations and regulatory hearings;
• Collaborate with other public interest organizations to share strategies, best practices and challenges;
• Create and maintain the FirstMile.ca website to provide freely available community broadband resources;
• Document and present evidence highlighting the capabilities of community-based technology organizations based in unserved and underserved communities;
• Analyze existing policies and regulations for underserved communities;
• Intervene in public hearings to establish permanent funding for these initiatives; and
• Build increased visibility, membership, and experience in policy consultations.
We have faced numerous challenges in documenting and preparing our policy proposals and regulatory interventions. As a network organization, with members located in multiple geographic regions including in some remote areas, it is challenging to coordinate and manage our work. All of the FMCC members participate in the everyday administration and management of the organization on a volunteer basis. The FMCC organization receives no funding support to hire staff or conduct administrative activities. Members are charged a nominal lifetime membership fee of $5 to join.
Vision for the Future:
Digital policy must recognize the calls to action issued by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. The telecommunications industry can take a lead in acting on these recommendations, in the spirit of corporate social responsibility and reconciliation. Companies can partner with Indigenous communities to develop and operate telecommunications systems that enable them to achieve their economic and community development goals. We will continue to push for these approaches in any National Broadband Strategy that is inclusive for all Canadians.
Most Indigenous communities require unique programs and services to properly operate, maintain, sustain, and upgrade the digital infrastructures required to support their residents. With exceptions, most of these communities lack access to adequate, affordable digital infrastructure and services. Our project aims to improve these conditions by advocating for policy reform and raising awareness of the challenges and successes of Indigenous-led digital innovation.
About First Mile Connectivity Consortium:
The FMCC is a national non-profit association of regional First Nations technology organizations serving remote communities (and their supporters). Our work is dedicated to research, advocacy and capacity-building for Indigenous-owned and operated community broadband. We are working together to ensure access to reliable and affordable broadband in Indigenous communities. To support these goals, the FMCC engages in evidence-based planning, research, public outreach and policy advocacy to highlight successes and draw attention to systemic barriers affecting Indigenous-led technology innovation.