Don’t let the clear skies in the photo fool you. Switch, Inc., a customer of Intelsat, was on site at the recovery center near Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada, where a raging fire displaced more than 80,000 people since it sparked on the first of May.
As the smoke began to clear, the still smoldering fire appeared to be even bigger than originally thought: as large as 522,000 hectares in Alberta and 2,400 hectares in neighboring Saskatchewan. No matter how you measure it, though, the devastation is incomprehensible.
In times like these, the power of satellite services is more evident than ever. That’s because satellite, with its ubiquitous, broadcast capabilities, can provide large swaths of coverage, even when terrestrial infrastructure is rendered nonfunctional (such as when telco stations are burnt to the ground).
Three days after the fire broke out, executives at Switch had three command vehicles en route to the scene. Parked near recreation centers that have been turned into hubs for displaced residents, the trucks use Intelsat’s Ku-band service to provide free internet, data and telephone connectivity for relocation efforts. Relief workers leveraged the on-site connectivity to organize bus transportation and relief operations and to provide internet and phone access so that those impacted by the fire could reach out to family, friends and resources.
Switch is accustomed to providing coverage in austere conditions, regularly providing seasonal connectivity for the hunting and fishing industry below the Northwestern territory and serving oil & gas and mining & exploration operations throughout the year in Canada.
Working alongside Intelsat, Switch has proven that in times of crises, broadband connectivity is an essential lifeline.