Project Chapleau, a technology showcase developed by Bell Canada, Nortel, and the Township of Chapleau, today turned on high-speed networking and applications in this Northern Ontario community. Project Chapleau is designed to evaluate the economic and social benefits of communications technologies on rural communities.

“What began as a vision — a critical need to create an economic recovery plan for our community — is now a reality,” said Chapleau Mayor Earle Freeborn. “Broadband access, including one of the first rural wireless mesh networks in Canada, will enable Chapleau to connect, and compete, with other communities throughout the world, positioning us as a centre for innovation and change.”

As part of this technology showcase, Chapleau will benefit from next generation wireless mesh, optical, multimedia communications and enterprise solutions using an upgraded optical network. Bell Canada and Nortel have also opened the Chapleau Innovation Centre, where residents can access and learn about new technologies. Through the Centre they can also connect virtually with the Bell-Nortel Innovation Centre in Ottawa and the leading-edge technologies and expertise being developed there. The Chapleau Community Portal — — now provides a virtual meeting place for the community and access to the global marketplace.

“Project Chapleau is not just about deploying technology, it is about learning from this community and about looking at new models for the provision of healthcare, education and commerce,” said Michael Sabia, President and CEO of BCE and CEO of Bell Canada. “Access to new resources and services enables Chapleau’s residents and businesses to participate in and build a broader concept of community.”

Over the next 14 months, Bell Canada and Nortel will work with leading researchers from Laurentian University, the University of Toronto and others to study the impact of broadband technologies and applications on the community. Project Chapleau is working with school boards and teachers in the town to broaden their curriculum through leading edge applications and online educational initiatives.

“By working with the schools, we hope to bring the world to Chapleau so that students and teachers can pull educational resources from the Internet and collaborate with their peers and colleagues in other remote communities, cities and even other countries,” said Bill Owens, vice chairman and chief executive officer, Nortel. “We will work with researchers to better understand how technology can change the way children learn and to study the impact on province-wide programs such as math and literacy.”

The delivery of health services to the area is expected to be enhanced with better collaborative tools for health practitioners and applications in disease management, with a particular focus in the area of diabetes monitoring.

Chapleau is a Northern Ontario community of approximately 3,000 people and lies about 320 kilometers northeast of Sault Ste. Marie. The community is the gateway to the world’s largest nature preserve — the 700,000-hectare Chapleau Crown Game Preserve.