Hello, internet? Are you there?

rural internet

The internet and the rural life: can the twain meet? (Photo from Rural Living Canada)

Regular readers might remember that I did a post not too long ago about our pressing need to get internet access at the Manse, and asking the advice of people in the Queensborough area about what kind of service works best.

If you go back and look at the comments I got on that post, you’ll see that many of them are of the “Good luck with that” variety, from local residents discouraged about the poor quality of internet reception. Despite the plan by an outfit known as EORN –yes, I know it sounds like a character in Winnie-the-Pooh, but actually it’s an acronym for Eastern Ontario Regional Network, and an association of the county wardens of Eastern Ontario is behind it – to bring high-speed internet to all of us in rural Ontario, Queensborough is still lacking. It seems the problem is that our little hamlet is in a valley, which means the houses there can’t generally get a clear wireless signal from EORN towers that have been erected in the not-terribly-distant hamlets of Eldorado and Flinton.

xplornet internet dish

I’m sorry, but this is not the way I want to get my internet.

The result is that many people are having to make do with getting internet via a satellite dish. I’ve heard varying levels of satisfaction with this: some people say it’s pretty good, while others are annoyed when bad weather cuts off their access. As someone who has been spoiled (though I never thought of it that way until now) by high-speed internet provided by a cable company in the big city for many years, I confess it horrifies me to think of losing access because of a stupid snowfall, or fog. So tonight I thought I’d tell you about the progress (or lack of same) that Raymond and I have made on this front.

We called up Xplornet, which is the service provider for the EORN network. A very nice chap came out and met us at the Manse, and I explained to him that I am not thrilled at the idea of internet by satellite. “Find a way to link us to the Eldorado or Flinton tower!” I practically begged him. (Hoping the fact that the Manse is on a bit of a rise in the village might help our cause.) He proceeded to check the strength of  the signal all around our property, and the verdict wasn’t good. Not only would we have to use a dish, he said, but we’d have to mount it on a pole that would have to be erected (encased in concrete) on the line between our property and that of our neighbours.

So let’s get this straight: we have to pay $250 or so to put up a pole, in addition to the regular internet-setup cost; that pole is a permanent fixture, given that it’s encased in concrete; it mars our property and the sightlines of both us and our neighbours; and what we end up with is less-than-optimal internet thanks to an ugly dish.

There has to be a better way.

And rest assured that I am pursuing it. It seems to me that if EORN is committed, as it says it is, to bringing good high-speed internet to Eastern Ontario, then Queensborough deserves to be in on the deal. If towers for wireless service can be built at Flinton and Eldorado, then why not the Queensborough area? Or a repeater, to relay those other towers’ signals?

People, I am on the case and I am going to be like a dog with a bone. I will call, I will email, I will petition whoever it takes: EORN, Xplornet, the Eastern Ontario Wardens’ Caucus, the warden of Hastings County (who just happens to be this year’s president of the Eastern Ontario Wardens’ Caucus), my MPP, the Queen – whatever it takes. I’ve made some preliminary inquiries, and I will keep you posted on progress.

Meantime, anyone who wants to join me in the battle – well, you know where to find me. Except maybe – if I’m in Queensborough – not on the internet. Yet.

18 thoughts on “Hello, internet? Are you there?

  1. welcome to the idyllic life of country folk. You get used to these little annoyances, just like cluster flies and mice. I note lots of houses have a small antenna on the roof (takes the place of that tower on your property line). Why not that?

    • Sadly (according to the Xplornet guy, and I have no reason whatsoever to disbelieve him) the large trees close to the house mean a dish mounted on it won’t get the signal. Trees are wonderful for many things, but apparently they get in the way of rural internet!

  2. I, too, live in a rural area, where we have something similar to Xplornet, with similar sign-up fee etc. But I am fortunate enough to be able to get cellphone service here, so I am using a Rogers mobile stick (basically, using their cellphone network) to access the Internet. It’s pretty good, though far from perfect — sometimes service is hit and miss. And it is expensive: $50 a month, plus tax, for 2GB of downloading, so watching YouTube videos is out of the question. But it serves my purpose for blogging,emails, research etc.

    So, if you get cellphone service in your area from Rogers or Bell, look into the mobile stick option.



  3. Count me in! As a result of EORN, I’m unhappy [to say the least] to be paying Xplornet 11% more for 50% of the speed as compared to the previous Reztel service.

    As you know, I did a lot of legwork in August 2012 but NO ONE in the Queensborough area lifted a finger to help. As a delegation of ONE, I had little influence. I had contacted Tweed Municipal Council, Todd Smith, MPP, and Daryl Kramp, MP, as all three levels of government contributed funds [approx 65% or $110 million of the $170 million total budget] to EORN and the subsequent Xplornet monopoly. I also contacted Jim Pine, the Hastings County CEO and coordinator of the EORN contracts for Hastings County. Alas, in all cases, I was met with “deafening silence” as the actors scurried into the woodwork like so many of a certain type of insect. Even letters to the local newspapers were countered by factually erroneous responses from EORN.

    Technically, it is a trivial matter for Xplornet to erect a tall repeater tower for the 4G Fixed Wireless service (http://www.xplornet.com/traffic-management/4g-fixed-wireless/) in downtown Queensborough. As proof of concept, that is what Reztel used to service Queensborough until they departed the market.

    Alternatively, it should not be a big deal to encourage Bell to offer Fibe Internet (http://fibe.bell.ca/index.php) [& Fibe TV (http://www.bell.ca/Fibe-TV)%5D to Queensborough since the necessary fibre optic cables have been passing through Queensborough since the middle of the past decade [I actually witnessed Bell lineworkers install them].

    • Grumpy Graham, I will be happy to welcome you to The Campaign for Better Internet for Queensborough. I’m going to start my lobbying of EORN next week, time permitting. Have been bugging low-level people at Bell about the possibility of Fibe, to no avail (beyond “We’ll contact you when it’s available in your area.” )

  4. I’m in a difficult area too…even satellite is problematical. I tether to my iPhone, alternately have used a stick and get reasonable speed and no particular interference from weather.

    • Oh bother. Bother bother bother. Evidently this country living, wonderful as it may be in so many ways, has its hiccups when it comes to internet access. Serves me right for not taking into consideration that this might be a problem. But if I have my way I’ll get the EORN folks to come take a look at the possibilities for good tower-signal service to Queensborough – and if you like, Hilary, I can put in a good word for your part of the County too…

    • This is absolutely inspirational, Sandra – thank you so much for sharing it! If the big company won’t give us the service that WE WILL PAY IT FOR – well, we’ll just take matters into our own hands! Now all we need in Queensborough is a bit of technical expertise…

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