First Mile

The First Mile project was developed from 2012 to 2013 and is now part of the First Nations Innovation project. The project website documents more than 50 First Nation initiatives across Canada that take a “First Mile” approach to broadband-enabled local community infrastructure and service delivery. To access these stories and videos, visit the First Mile website:

First Mile approaches focus on and invest in local, rural development instead of the traditional corporate or institutional-centered approaches that are most often created by centralized, urban-centric agencies. For the many remote and rural First Nations without adequate broadband, the First Mile approach supports the community leadership to make decisions about the development and deployment of broadband networks in their communities.

Many different research investigations have found that services made possible by broadband win community support when they are developed under the leadership of First Nations. Of the many lessons learned, one of the most important is about control. First Nations must be in control of the service or application to ensure it will remain centred on the needs of the community and be supported by community members. To ensure local control, national and regional plans need to involve First Nations in the program design and implementation, including for broadband development.

OCAP refers to ownership, control, access and possession. Originally a theory developed by First Nations to apply self-determination to research (Schnarch, 2004), OCAP principles are now applied in several other policy areas. OCAP applied to telecommunications, or self-determination applied to broadband networks, has at least two implications. First, that First Nations must retain access and possession of the capacity and resources to effectively manage the content, traffic and services on their local network. Second, that First Nations have a right to own and control the local broadband network in their communities in order to support the flow of information and services.

Two publications from the First Mile project describe and analyze in detail how First Nations across Canada are applying First Mile and OCAP concepts in the development of their local infrastructure. To access these publications, click on the links below:

1. Putting the ‘last-mile’ first: Re-framing broadband development in First Nations and Inuit communities

French version

2. Digital Divides and the ‘First Mile’: Framing First Nations Broadband Development in Canada

The First Nation Innovation project has several publications discussing the First Mile concept in local contexts:

1. Democratic Ideals Meet Reality: Developing Locally Owned and Managed Broadband Networks and ICT Services in Rural and Remote First Nations in Quebec and Canada

2. A History of Communication by Fort Severn First Nation Community Members: From Hand Deliveries to Virtual Pokes

3. How the Washaho Cree Nation at Fort Severn is using a “First Mile Approach” to Deliver Community Services

Reference: Schnarch, B. (2004) Ownership, Control, Access, and Possession (OCAP) or Self-Determination Applied to Research: A Critical Analysis of Contemporary First Nations Research and Some Options for First Nations Communities. Journal of Aboriginal Health, 1(1): 80-95.