Canarie Satellite Caching Project

By: Sarah King, SNN Reporter
Amalgamated Academy
Bay Roberts, NF

Over the years Newfoundland has been a leader in telecommunications history. The 1st Trans-Atlantic cables were run from Heart’s Content, Newfoundland to Valencia, Ireland in 1866. These cables were run by the ship the Great Eastern, under the supervision of Cyrus Field. Some other important events in telecommunications history are:

  • 1980-81 - 1st Computer Education pilot was run by Dr. Ches Brown in Bishop’s College and St Paul’s school.
  • 1981 - 1st floppy drive received by schools.
  • 1990 - Lighthouse school Project Network - 1st time email was used outside of schools
  • 1993 - Stem ~ Net is created by Harvey Weir. He asks for 4.5 million dollars to start a computer network for teachers and gets it.

According to today’s statistics, in Newfoundland,

  • 63 schools have cable modems
  • 13 have ADSL technology
  • 161 have ExpressVu Satellite dishes
  • 106 have Low Speed Modems.

The short term outlook for schools is that Cable and ADSL will only be available in larger areas as T1 and Fractional T1 are too expensive for rural schools. Also, DirecPC will be the only high speed access for schools outside the "Trans-Canada Corridor".

In other words, most rural schools will need to purchase DirecPC technology if they wish to have a high speed Internet connection for the school.

DirecPC uses a satellite connection to download all information but any information that needs to be up-loaded must be sent out via a modem.

As with all things , DirecPC has it’s disadvantages.

  • 1500 DirecPc systems share an 11Mbs channel.
  • 36,000 workstations per 11Mbs.
  • The connection is good before 11 am but in the afternoon it can be as slow as a 2 way modem.

ExpressVu can decommission your system without telling you. (There have been 15 schools have experienced this problem since the project’s beginning in April)

To every problem, there is a solution. DirecPC is no exception. There are solutions to these problems, but they are costly and often create problems of their own.

Short term:

  • switch to terrestrial service
  • increase DirecPC bandwidth
  • move to unique satellite service
  • initiate large scale caching in all schools.

Long term:

  • connect rural part of the province with fibre
  • two way satellite systems
  • go from Analog Delivery to a "web based" digital delivery

Of course, there are also pros to DirecPC:

  • it is based on standard Linux operation and the ease of use GUI administration and management are just some of the many advantages to the DirecPC operations.

The CANARIE Project is a large scale caching project in schools in two school districts, Lewisporte/Gander in Newfoundland and Hastings/Prince Edward in Ontario. It has 25 remote terminals, 20 of which are situated in the two school districts. CANARIE uses satellites to send information to schools to be stored in a cache. The most popular sites from each school, each day are sent to Ottawa, which monitors the sites and then sends a list of the most popular sites to the satellite AnikE1. This satellite then sends the sites to a cache in each of the host schools where they are then stored. When a student tries to access these sites, they do not need to access the Internet at all, the computer simply finds the site in cache, and projects it onto the student’s screen.

The functions for CANARIE are divided into two sections, Proactive and Reactive.


  • specific site retrieval
  • long term storage
  • based on individual school requirements
  • scheduled material delivery


  • Based on individual and collaborated school request patterns

Eventually CANARIE hopes to have a 50% hit rate which means, 50% of material requested by students will already be in the cache.

The bottom line is, CANARIE will speed up the Internet connections for everybody else by leaving less people accessing the Internet at any given moment.