Feds announce high-speed internet expansions for Saskatchewan in La Ronge

Photo courtesy of Rural Economic Development Canada Federal Minister, Gudie Hutchings, Minister of Rural Economic Development announced expansions of high-speed Internet and Wifi in communities and roads across the province, several in northern Saskatchewan, while in La Ronge Monday, June 3.

Federal minister Gudie Hutchings, minister of Rural Economic Development, was in La Ronge to announce the expansion of high-speed internet in several Saskatchewan communities.

“Connectivity is not a luxury anymore, it’s a necessity,” Hutchings said, referring to her announcement of enhanced Internet coverage in Saskatchewan, in an interview with the Northern Advocate.

She spoke about the importance of internet access to rural communities, particularly in the area of healthcare, which there is opportunity to have healthcare services at the fingertips of those providing service.

“When you have access to reliable Internet … everyone’s got their own version of, but, it is really incredible … some colleagues saying they really ramped up their virtual health care program and it’s really taken some pressure off emergencies.”

While in La Ronge, Hutchings met with the Chamber of Commerce and visited some businesses in the community.

She also spoke of two programs geared to support rural families and communities.

Connecting Families is a “$20-a-month Internet program for low-income families.” Information on the program is available through CRA. A letter from CRA includes a number, which, when given to the service provider, results in a $20-a-month service, she said.

“It’s for low-income families, so it’s a really great program and I know SaskTel is a partner in it.”

Another program involves student loan forgiveness. Students, such as doctors, and apply to work in small, remote community and some of their student loan forgiven, Hutchings said.

“We started with doctors, nurses, nurse practitioners and now we’ve added early learning and childcare. We’ve added teachers, physiotherapists, psychologists, dentists, so it’s an incentive to have some of your student loan forgiven if you go to to commit to work in small, remote rural communities,” she said.

For medical students it could be up to $60,000 and nurses, nurse practitioners for example, could be up to $40,000. 

She also took part in the Pride Flag Raising ceremony at the Lac La Ronge Indian Band (LLRIB) Band Office, held to kick off the celebration of June as Pride Month.

The announcement includes several northern Saskatchewan communities, of which many are Indigenous communities.

Communities where Meadow Lake Tribal Council is the carrier will receive microwave backbone, fixed wireless in the last mile, with the service to be delivered by March 2025. The communities include: Turnor Lake No. 193B; (Birch Narrows First Nation); Clearwater River Dene Indian Reserve No. 222, (Clearwater River Dene Nation); Canoe Lake No 165, (Canoe Lake Cree First Nation); Buffalo River Dene Nation No 193, (Buffalo River Dene Nation); La Plonge No. 192 (English River First Nation), Wapachewunak No. 192D (English River First Nation) Island Lake (Minisikowan Lake Cree Nation; Patuanak, St. George’s Hill, Waterhen No. 130 (Waterhen Lake); Makwa Lake No. 129B (Makwa Sahgaiehcan First Nation); Flying Dust First Nation Reserve NO. 105 (Flying Dust First Nation).

Communities in the north east, serviced by SaskTel will receive fibre backbone and fibre in the last mile. They include: Deschambault Lake, the Village of Ballantyne Bay, Tyrell Lake and Jan Lake.

In a separate project, also serviced by SaskTel, the communities of Cumberland House, Cumberland House Cree Nation and Pemmican Portage will also receive fibre backbone and fibre for the last mile. Both these projects are expected to be complete by December 2026.

Road coverage area projects serviced by SaskTel. Seventy-six (76) kms. They include: Birch Narrows First Nation, Island Lake Ministikwan Lake Cree Nation and Turnor Lake. The project will cover Road 909 leading to Turnor Lake, as well as Highway 21 and Road 699 near Island Lake (Ministikwan Lake Cree Nation). The project is expected to be complete by March 2026.

In a separate project that is serviced by SaskTel Mobile, “primarily along Highway 106 (Hanson Lake Road) and a smaller stretch of Highway 120”. They will receive fibre and microwave backbone, mobile wireless in the last mile. They include: Candle Lake; Minowukaw Beach; Deschambault Lake; Bosco; East Trout Lake; Little Bear Lake; Lower Fishing Lake; Whiteswan Lake; Village of Ballantyne Bay; Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation communities of Birch Portage Indian Reserve No. 184A; Waskwaynikapik Indian Reserve No. 228; Nakiskatowaneek Indian Reserve No 227; Sandy Narrows No. 184C; Kimosom Pwatinahk Indian Reserve No. 203; Mistik; Pisiwiminiwatim Indian Reserve No, 207; and Muskwaminiwatim Indian Reserve No. 225. That project is expected to be complete by December 2026.