Eeyou Mobility is closer to launching their full commercial services across the Cree communities. The company announced it will be servicing Ouje-Bougoumou, Nemaska, Mistissini and Waswanipi, as well as Chapais and Chibougamau, by the end of the year, according to president Henry Gull.
“A lot of the reason behind it is for security reasons. The roads are all very isolated, there’s frequent issues with vehicles and people can’t reach anyone. It’s also good for tourism, in the mines or people operating or doing research in the area will have more access and safety,” Gull explained.
“Our goal is to connect all the communities. Our partners have invested a substantial amount of funds to connecting all nine Cree and five Jamesian communities, and the Km 381 on the Billy Diamond Highway. From there we plan to have service on all the access roads, and eventually the entire length of the Billy Diamond Highway, the Route du Nord, and a section between Matagami and Quevillon for safety reasons,” Gull added.
He said these proposals are outlined in the plans that were submitted to the Quebec government, and that they’re awaiting a positive response. The partners include Rogers, who will provide service to Eeyou Mobility customers when travelling across Canada (and provide service to Rogers’ customers travelling in Eeyou Istchee and the James Bay region), and SSi Canada, a telecommunications company based in the Northwest Territories with experience building communications infrastructure in remote areas.
Gull also clarified that the system will be running on 4G LTE technology, which will allow the services to extend to farther areas. He said that during beta testing, they heard a response from a man on a skidoo on the Ouje-Bougoumou access trail who was the only one in his group to get cell-phone service.
“Cree participation and direct involvement in the development of Eeyou Istchee is an underlying principle of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement as well as our more recent agreements with Quebec and Canada,” said former Grand Chief Abel Bosum in a press release.
“Over the years, this principle has enabled us to direct our own future and provide opportunities for our families, our communities and our nation. Eeyou Mobility Inc. is another good example of what we can achieve, working together, to improve conditions for our people, to create growth and to prepare the next generation with the assets they will need to continue on this path.”
Gull said that their service packages are more expansive within Eeyou Istchee, and said he encourages people to use their phones within the territory, where they’ll have internet access through the company’s fiber-optic backbone. Packages on the company’s website begin at $20 for just talk and text, and go up to $99 a month for 60GB of data in the James Bay area, 5GB in the rest of Canada, and unlimited calls and texts nationwide.
He added that the company wants to involve a lot of Cree people to work with them, and they are employing one person per community as a service provider, including in the Jamesian communities. “We encourage people to get into this kind of business. We will be training employees to work in the head office in Chisasibi,” Gull added.
“We want everyone to know that we are working hard to finish the network, targeting before Christmas to have it completed, and to let people know our plans are very competitive. There are pay-as-you-go contracts, you can bring your own phone, or buy a phone from us or a third party, you can get a chip and be ready to operate in our network.”
by Ben Powless, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter