Have you been following the long and endlessly fascinating saga of the attempt by Raymond and me to get good high-speed internet here at the Manse? (Instalments are here, here, here and here.) I’m sure no one is as acutely interested in the topic as we are ourselves, though I suspect lots of residents of rural areas can sympathize with our struggle, and might be interested to see how it turns out. Because, you see, as I have written before, rural areas and the internet are not on the absolute greatest of terms.
It’s not for lack of trying. Lord knows there is a whole high-powered team of people – politicians and engineers and such – committed to the Eastern Ontario Regional Network, a project that pledges to bring high-speed access to Eastern Ontario. And from what I understand, EORN is doing a good job – in most places. The problem is that Queensborough continues to be, as an EORN engineer put it to me, “under-served.” Our little village is in a valley, which makes it difficult for those magical waves that emanate from towers that aren’t quite close enough to get to our homes and computers (and phones, and iPads, and so on).
Not having ready access to the internet was a trying enough situation for Raymond and me in the year and a half after we’d bought the Manse but were only here on the occasional weekend. But once we’d moved here full-time, it became critical to solve the problem; we both use the internet a lot, notably for work. And we had been spoiled by what was (we realized only in retrospect) the cheap and unlimited and faster-than-fast internet service that we had via cable when we lived in Montreal.
A few months ago (as I reported here) I thought I had our internet issue resolved. And I did – sort of. Thanks to the helpful folks at Telus – a company I had never previously dealt with – we acquired a wireless hub that provides pretty fast internet; often it’s almost as fast as our big-city service was. And we were getting used to monthly bills of about $100 – twice what we paid in Montreal, but worth it, we felt. We have even managed to tamp down our rage when the internet starts kicking out for brief periods, as it annoyingly does from time to time. (Maybe it’s the weather.)
But just when I thought the internet situation was satisfactorily under control, along came the most recent monthly bill from Telus. Yikes! It was (as you can see at the top of this post) for more than $400. What the?!?!?!
Seeing as how I do not have a spare few hundred bucks sitting around to send Telus’s way, I got on the blower (that would be the red dial phone, the hot line to Khruschchev) to Telus customer service. And while the chap I spoke to couldn’t have been nicer or more understanding, the mystery of how we had acquired this monster bill stayed mysterious through the best part of my half-hour call with him. He kept insisting that we must have been streaming movies or some such from the internet, and I kept insisting, truthfully, that we had done no such thing. In the interim he kindly said that company policy allows for a one-time-only reduction in the case of such unexpectedly high bills; it’s the sticker-shock clause, he told me. And he whacked $175 off the bill, so that (with tax taken into account) it came to a mere – a mere! – $214.15.
In the end, the mystery was solved. Raymond had been doing a lot of online work on a media project in the Manse’s study, and had decided he needed some music to work by. So he did what the folks on CBC Radio Two are always telling us to to do, which is to check out the CBC’s online music channels. And he happily listened to opera for pretty much two days straight.
It hadn’t crossed his mind, or mine, that such an innocuous use of the internet would result in a monster-sized bill.
But there again, it’s all about living in a rural area. The cable internet that we had in Montreal was a setup where many households were all served by that cable system – so it was cheap for the company to provide the service to any individual household, and our bill was relatively low. It’s all about volume and density. Here in pretty little Queensborough, where houses are far between and infrastructure like cable connections nonexistent, we have to get our internet through wireless, and building the towers that provide it is expensive. I get it.
But what a drag it is that, unless we want to pay hundreds of dollars a month, we can’t watch TV or movies or listen to music that’s online. All our friends in the city can, at basically zero extra cost.
Ah well. It’s a tradeoff, isn’t it? Beautiful place to live, unsatisfactory internet. But I’d be lying if I tried to pretend that I didn’t want it all.
EORN, are you listening?