In case you happened to drive through central Tweed, Ont., this afternoon and spotted someone sitting for an inordinately long time on the bench in front of the closed-for-the-holiday Tweed Public Library, bustling about with an array of electronic devices – well, welcome to how I spent the afternoon of the Dominion Day holiday. And welcome to the ongoing saga of trying to get decent internet service at a reasonable cost when you live in rural Eastern Ontario.
Regular readers will probably be bored with my ongoing complaints about the internet thing (like here and here and here). I guess my frustration this evening is that things don’t seem to be getting any better. A few months ago I wrote (here) about a case of sticker shock that Raymond and I experienced upon opening a bill from our internet provider, Telus. As I mentioned in that post, the good folks at Telus took pity on us and reduced the bill. But then, despite all our efforts to use absolutely minimal internet – no streaming of movies or TV shows or radio broadcasts here, let me assure you – we got another huge bill last month.
To their infinite credit, Telus once again took pity and reduced the bill when I called to ask what on earth is causing bills of close to $200 a month. (Though they seem to be as much at a loss to explain it as we are.) One reason, of course, is that the internet is coming to us wirelessly, and that’s always more expensive. (You might recall that our efforts to get a satellite connection, which is what many people around here use with varying degrees of satisfaction, were stymied when we were informed – by a very nice representative for the consortium that does it, Xplornet – that we’d have to erect a pole, encased in concrete, right by the fenceline between us and our neighbours in order to receive a signal. No dice, man. No unsightly (for both us and our neighbours) poles-encased-in-concrete. So wireless it is.
Anyway, thank goodness for the public libraries in the nearby villages of Tweed and Madoc, that’s all I have to say. I mean, I’ve written several times before about how great those libraries are (like here for Tweed and here for Madoc), but that was by and large for other reasons. (Like, say, books, and readings by authors.) Now I’d just like to say that a library that offers free wifi, which you can pick up from an outdoor bench even when the library is closed for the Dominion Day holiday, so that you can update the operating system and software on your laptop and phone quickly and efficiently (when it would take forever and add a whole lot of money to your next Telus bill if you did it at home) – well, that is my kind of community place.
But what a drag that one has to drive 10 miles (from Queensborough) to do this! What about the people who can’t get there so readily? What about wintertime, when it’s not so great sitting out on the bench?
The disparity between how easy and cheap it is to get endless high-speed internet in urban parts of this province and country, and how frustrating and expensive it is to get even relatively acceptable internet when you’re in a rural area, is really starting to bug me.
So I guess my wish for Dominion Day – or, if you must, Canada Day – 2014 is this: fair (and fairly priced) internet access for all! Rural Canadians, are you with me?