Who was that woman parked on the library bench?

Getting wifi outside the Tweed library

The scene outside the closed-for-the-holiday Tweed Public Library this hot, muggy July 1 afternoon, minus me and my phone/camera (which were taking the photo): the laptop with which I was taking full advantage of the library’s wifi service. Bless you, Tweed library!

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?

12 thoughts on “Who was that woman parked on the library bench?

  1. It might be worth it to hire an IT person to come out and check your automatic updates and other settings, Katherine. We are also on less-than-satisfactory satellite Internet with Xplornet, the only supplier where we moved. (We hadn’t realized how great it was to have even spotty Skype available until it was no longer an option!) we, too, were stunned at giant download usage in our first month, until our guy painstakingly checked settings and found the boys’ computer was trying over and over to update something, unsuccessfully, but sucking up usage in the meantime. At least, I think that’s what it was. Anyway, while we can’t Skype, we’re getting by, and haven’t come close to hitting our usage cap (usage cap…sigh) since then, and we do watch stuff on Netflix fairly regularly. We don’t stream much else, though. In theory, we might be getting line-of-sight access…sometime… Good luck!

    • Thanks for this, Nancy. I thought I had disabled the various automatic updates that were happening on our various pieces of technology, but thanks to your little prompt I went back and checked again and I think I found some more. Hoping that might keep the monthly bills under $100. Sigh. Thanks to our wireless-only setup, we can’t even think of watching something on Netflix. You can imagine how annoying I now find TV and radio ads for online viewing/listening…

      • I’m truly sorry you have to deal with it, but does your situation not make you keenly aware of the extent of the digital divide in this country? I mean, how can we possibly achieve all these enormous societal and personal goods the Internet offers when so many of us, even in the southern part of the most populous country, don’t have fast, reliable, reasonably priced (hey, a girl can dream, right?!!) connections? End of rant.

      • Nancy, your rant is my rant. And yes, I think one has to experience that digital divide to truly appreciate how real, and how much of a problem, it is. Let us rant on!

      • When not using the internet, I physically power-down my internet router [mainly to save electricity] which eliminates unattended update checks [and downloads] by my desktop computer [and installed software, therein]

      • I think I have achieved the same thing by telling all my devices not to automatically update – but I guess we will see come the next billing cycle!

  2. Be careful when you are using a public network for private business such as banking. It is all too easy for someone nearby to break into your computer and steal personal information. Try using a VPN, (Virtual Private Network) for greater security.

  3. Hmmm…security issues aside, sounds like you have a viable internet access plan. With the cost of driving to & from Madoc or Tweed at around $2/trip, you could perform your internet surfing at either library daily for the reasonable cost of $60/month…AND have higher internet speed than Queensborough residents

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