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How Peguis First Nation bridged the digital divide in their community

Learning from a significant power outage, Peguis improved infrastructure for their community.

Situated at the edge of the Canadian Shield Peguis First Nation stands as the largest First Nations community in Manitoba and the sixth largest in Canada; with approximately 10,000 residents. In 2019, however, there was a major snowstorm that knocked out power for 10 days--crippling the community’s connectivity and digital infrastructure.

To ensure their community was better prepared to face future crises, Peguis leaders came together and identified the need to update their digital infrastructure. “We wanted to look at achieving WiFi throughout the community, not just our facilities,” Chief Glen Hudson explains. To better support their community on a day to day basis as well as during any critical events, Peguis leaders sought out cooperation with a telecommunications company for expertise and feedback on their plans.

As Toby Laviotte, a Project Manager and Chief at Peguis Development and Peguis Industries explains, “Chief Hudson made it very clear right after [the storm] that he wanted ideas on how we could prevent from this sort of thing from happening again. The biggest thing he wanted to prevent was the communication breakdown, food spoiling, and just doing everything we could to prepare the community and everyone in it as much as possible.”

After due diligence, Peguis formed a working relationship with Rogers to modernize their connectivity solutions, ensure operational capability in an emergency, and extend connectivity out to community. To keep people connected without the need for personal cellular data, Peguis installed public WiFi throughout the community, with the first hub being in their multiplex community centre due to its high amount of traffic and use.

Aerial image of Peguis First Nations community

In order to ensure consistent and reliable access, a virtual private cloud service was added as well— allowing everyone in the community to access important documents during any potential power outages. This solution proved to be especially useful for Peguis businesses needing to keep operations running even in the worst of times.

After fostering greater connectivity within the community, it wasn’t long before Peguis leaders began to identify more opportunities for expansion. “Initially, our conversations with Peguis started as a response to the storm ,” notes Kristen Budgell, Territory Account Manager at Rogers for Business. “but from there our conversations really evolved into all kinds of different projects.”

To help monitor company assets, fleet tracking has been introduced, as was Blackberry AtHoc alerts—allowing community leaders to send messages and/or alerts to personal devices and emails in case of a future emergency. Lastly, Peguis businesses streamlined their wireless services to one provider, ensuring reliable service and personalized expertise should a crisis arise.

With this new infrastructure in place, Peguis leaders were quickly able to establish helpful ways to stay connected and, most importantly, help people stay safe even after the COVID-19 pandemic hit in early 2020.

"It seemed like overnight that everyone had to work from home."

Kirk Mann
Communications Director, Peguis First Nations

As a part of the remote learning initiative for children, Peguis and Rogers deployed 150 Apple iPads; to enable staff to work remotely and reduce stress on the public WiFi system, the band also installed 30 MiFi hotspots. “It seemed like overnight that everyone had to work from home,” Kirk Mann (Communications Director, Peguis First Nations) explains. “So, the [installment] of the WiFi hotspots allowed us to continue operating.”

“The commitment that Rogers continues to show in terms of working together and [helping us] find solutions has been very positive—and a lot of fun,” Chief Hudson says.

Entry sign to Peguis First Nations community

To find out how Rogers can help your community take charge of its digital infrastructure, see our smart cities home page or talk to your local Rogers representative.