The internet came, and then it went away again

Queensborough, we have an internet problem. Again.

But then, if you live in the Queensborough area, I’m pretty sure you know that. Why? Because not long ago I asked you, and you answered. Boy, did you answer.

Some good news about this internet problem, however, is that I have put my journalistic skills to use, made some inquiries, and now have a suggested plan of action. It does require something from you, my dear Queensborough reader, but only this: that you pick up your phone and call our local internet provider. Yes, you know the one:

Xplornet logo

For the benefit of non-Queensborough readers, let me provide some background on all this. And then I’ll share what I’ve learned about what can be done.

Longtime readers of Meanwhile, at the Manse may recall my many posts on the topic of slow to non-existent internet from the early years Raymond and I spent here in Queensborough. Between our purchase of the Manse in January 2012 and a magical day in March 2015 (more on that in just a bit), our internet situation was absolutely dire. The signal was impossibly slow; streaming services such as Netflix were out of the question; and the incredibly lame service that we had was still costing us $100 a month. (You can read some of my posts on the topic here and here and here.) Many were the evenings when the frustration of the endless hours it took to do a simple internet thing like putting up a blog post for you all to read had me practically in tears.

But then on March 19, 2015, the internet came to the Manse! Xplornet Communications, the company tasked with providing high-speed internet to rural Eastern Ontario, had just erected a tower on DeClair Road a bit east of Queensborough. On that magical Thursday in March, a technician came to the Manse to install a setup allowing us to connect to the tower. As you can read in my excited post about it here, and an even more exuberant followup a month later, we suddenly had endless and gloriously fast internet, for about the same price we’d been paying for the previous ghastly setup. We could watch Netflix! Raymond could watch his beloved Boston Red Sox games, streamed in high definition! I could do blog posts quickly and without tears! It was wonderful!

And it wasn’t just us: suddenly all of Queensborough (with exception of one household that had too many trees between it and the DeClair Road tower) had access to lightning-fast internet. Basically, it changed our lives – forever, we thought.

Alas, “forever” turned out to be about three years.

Since this past spring, internet in Queensborough has once again been terrible. Not so much in the daytime, mind you; but in the evening, when everyone’s home and online – Facebook, Netflix, Raymond watching his Red Sox via the Major League Baseball streaming app – it slows to a crawl at best and a complete freeze a great deal of the time. Here, let me show you with a little video of the action – actually inaction, due to the internet freeze – during a Red Sox-Tampa Bay Rays game the other night. The only “action” you’ll see until the freeze finally lets up is the ever-circling “loading” wheel – appropriately named (not by me) “the spinning wheel of death”:

These freezes happen dozens of times during every game. Lately, Raymond’s just given up trying to watch most evenings. And while that’s causing him so much grief, I’m usually trying to compose emails or blog posts or some such, and experiencing exactly the same thing – freeze after freeze, and more of the spinning wheel of death. The situation is every bit as frustrating as it was pre-2015. And we’re paying more than $100 a month for this?

About 10 days ago, I decided I’d had enough. It was time for action.

Step 1 was to get confirmation of how bad, and how widespread, the problem is. I already knew from a couple of conversations I’d had with neighbours that we are not the only household experiencing suddenly terrible internet. I felt quite certain that all of Queensborough was having the same problem – doubtless because more families have moved to the area in recent times, and because they (and everybody else) are using the internet more than ever. My educated guess was that the DeClair Road tower could no longer meet internet demand from Queensborough. But I needed some ammunition for Step 2, and so I sent out a message via social media outlining our no-internet-in-the-evenings situation and asking my fellow Queensborough-area residents to tell me if the same thing was happening to them. Which they did.

Facebook post on slow internet

The Facebook post in which I asked residents of our area whether they are experiencing the same internet problems as we are here at the Manse. The replies came thick and fast, and confirmed that we have a Queensborough-wide problem.

“I have the exact same experience and complaint, Katherine,” wrote one person.

“We had tons of issues in the last year with the internet service,” wrote another.

“Same issue,” said several others.

“I almost curse them all the time now,” wrote someone who happens to be a devout Christian. Wow!

Armed with confirmation that the problem is Queensborough-wide, I moved on to Step 2, which was to call Xplornet. Two hours on the phone later, I had a much-reduced internet bill and quite a bit of information. Which I now want to share with my fellow slow-internet sufferers.

The first department I got was customer service. I explained to the pleasant woman who took my call (after about 45 minutes on hold) about how all of Queensborough was experiencing the same internet problems, that the tower that services us must be beyond its capacity, and that we’re all pretty darn frustrated. She told me that:

  • Additional panels can be put onto a tower to resolve the problem of overload (though she stressed that this technical end of things was not her area of expertise).
  • All calls about such problems are logged and actively monitored by Xplornet, and if there is a sudden influx of calls of complaint from one particular area, there’s more likely to be action to resolve the problem. Which is why, Queensborough people, you should call! The number (which you can find on your bill) is 1-866-841-6001.

Anyway, back to my call. The last thing the customer-service rep did was: cut my monthly internet bill by $30! The reduction is good for the next six months, and if service hasn’t improved at the end of that time, it will be renewed.

And when I politely but persistently reminded her that I’d already paid more than $100 a month for several months’ worth of terrible service, she also gave me a rebate of one month’s charge. The next bill arrived a few days later, and because of all the reductions, I ended up with something even better than a zero balance: a credit of about $25.

So: did I mention that you should make that call? That number again is 1-866-841-6001. (But make sure you have a cup of coffee and something to read in hand, to get you through the wait time to speak to an agent.)

So then my helpful customer-service rep transferred me over to Xplornet’s technical department, where I had a long and enlightening chat with a member of the technical team. Once again I told my whole story, including the fact that all of Queensborough is experiencing the same problem.

He told me that towers, including the DeClair Road one, are being upgraded with what’s called an overlay, to add capacity. He noted – and I know this is true – that these upgrades can’t be done at the drop of a hat; there are licensing issues involved that take time. But he did confirm that the work “is under way.” When I asked when it would be completed, he said Xplornet does not give out end dates for such projects, but said he suspects it’ll be mid to late September at the latest – if only because the company doesn’t want its workers up on the towers when bad weather comes.

When I told him about the customer-service rep’s advice to urge people to call about the problem, he agreed that a bunch of calls from our area might well get the timeline for the tower work bumped up. So people! Call! 1-866-841-6001. And please tell them, as I did, that the problem you’re experiencing is shared by everyone in our area. This definitely adds oomph to the complaint, and avoids an agent trying to solve a (probably nonexistent) problem with your own personal setup.

Oh, and a bit more information I got: for those of you who get your internet via Xplornet satellite rather than from the DeClair Road tower, but are experiencing the same problem with painfully slow loading times: it’s again because of capacity issues. Demand on the satellite signal is growing very quickly, just like demand on the towers. I suggest you too call to let the company know about the problem, and inquire what can be done about reducing your bill until the signal comes up to snuff.

Internet announcement

The posting on Hastings-Lennox and Addington MP Mike Bossio’s website about the plan to bring the internet via fibre-optic cable to our area. The announcement was made at the Signal Brewery in Corbyville (once the site of the famous Corby Distillery), and on hand were (from left) Signal owner Richard Courneyea, Bay of Quinte MP Neil Ellis, Navdeep Bains, the federal minister of innovation, science and economic development, Jill Raycroft of the Belleville Chamber of Commerce, MP Mike Bossio, and Xplornet chief executive officer Allison Lenehan.

FibreRoute

The network of fibre-optic cables that will bring super-duper internet to our area within a couple of years – or at least, that’s the promise. (Photo via lennox-addington.on.ca; click to enlarge)

Now, in the slightly longer term there is some good news for us all. Last month, our MP, Mike Bossio (a schoolmate of mine in Madoc back in the days when I was growing up in this area), announced a partnership between the federal government and Xplornet to improve high-speed internet in Eastern Ontario using an existing network of fibre-optic cables. You can read about it here, and you’ll see on the map, as well as in the news story, that our entire area – the Municipality of Tweed, of which Queensborough is a part, and neighbouring Madoc Township, which is Queensborough-adjacent – are included. This is fantastic!

The only down side is that this new and improved service won’t be up and running until 2020. And yes, I know we’re already more than halfway through 2018, but a year and a half is a long time to deal with frozen-screen baseball games. Just ask Raymond.

So until then? Call Xplornet. Be polite but persistent. We had great internet for one brief shining moment. (Okay, it lasted three glorious years). We need to get it back!

So, how IS the internet? Well, I’m glad you asked.

The internet comes to the Manse

Look up, way up. (I hope you will catch the Friendly Giant reference.) Can you see that small diamond-shaped piece of metal attached to the ancient TV antenna that towers over the Manse? That, people, is the magic gizmo that catches the Xplornet internet signal and brings it into our home. It has changed our lives immeasurably for the better.

I don’t suppose it’s been keeping any of you awake at night or anything, but I’ve had enough people ask me whether our new internet setup here at the Manse is working out well that I decided I should give those interested a full and complete report. After all, longtime readers of Meanwhile, at the Manse will be well aware of my many, many posts of frustration and sometimes even despair about the poor (and costly) internet options that until recently were all that was available to us in Queensborough.

(If you’ve any desire to take a nostalgic trip back through the Valley of Katherine’s Internet Despair, click here and here and here and here and here and here and here. It was a long-drawn-out saga, with many chapters.)

It has been a month and a bit since Raymond and I acquired a hookup through Xplornet, the company contracted by the Eastern Ontario Regional Network, a kind of municipal co-op with the mission of providing high-speed internet service to Eastern Ontario. That hookup was made possible by Xplornet making the excellent decision to erect a communications tower on Declair Road, just a little north and east of Queensborough. When those of us who live here in our pretty little river-valley village heard the news of plans for the tower, we were all atwitter: would this finally mean decent internet service? When the tower went into service early this year, we started signing up. Raymond and I were near the front of the line.

And now, after about six weeks of the new setup, all I have to say about it is this: our lives have utterly changed. For the better.

House of Cards

A brilliant online-only show that we can now watch at the Manse!

People, we have endless internet! All we can use, and to spare! We can use Netflix! We can watch House of Cards! We can watch anything! Online! In high definition! On our laptops and phones, we can watch YouTube videos and download audiobooks and even listen to streamed radio broadcasts. And on television (or his laptop, or his phone) Raymond can watch every blessed one of the games that his beloved Red Sox play. In HD.

And it is all costing us less than we were paying previously for the barest of bare-bones internet!

As you can probably tell, I am absolutely thrilled about this. And I am not just thrilled for Raymond and me at the Manse – because, contrary to what it might sometimes sound like here, it is not all about us.

No, what I am really thrilled about is the possibilities that this service offers to our own rural area and to others like it in Eastern Ontario. Suddenly it is possible for a business that needs good internet service (and what business in 2015 doesn’t need good internet service?) to operate here. It means that smart, creative people who are tired of city life and want to come live and work in God’s country (translation: North of 7) can do so, and by doing so can and will contribute to our local tax base and economy and community life.

So please allow me, the person who complained so loudly and so long, so unequivocally and so publicly, when the the internet was bad, to hereby offer up my huge thanks to the good folks at the Eastern Ontario Regional Network (with a special shoutout to Hastings County chief administrative officer and co-leader of the EORN team Jim Pine, who was kind enough to reply helpfully to my emails of inquiry and concern about the situation when I first realized how bad it was), and to those at Xplornet (who put up that blessed tower on Declair Road). Thank you, thank you, thank you! You have made our community a better place, one with more to offer and with a much greater potential to thrive.

People, this is a good-news story, pure and simple. The internet has come to Queensborough. It is good internet. It is reasonably priced internet.

Just when you thought that life in Queensborough couldn’t get any better – it did.

The Magic Bus comes to Queensborough

Internet installation

Ryan from Elite Electronics of Tweed setting up our internet this afternoon. Yay!

“My love, I can’t believe it,” Raymond exclaimed to me just now. “Xplornet has come to Queensborough!” Raymond has been bustling around the house for the past few minutes, setting up all our communications devices to talk to our Apple AirPort wi-fi box – which in turn is talking to the wondrous, magic little Xplornet box that is bringing real, honest-to-God internet to the Manse!

I thought this day would never come. So, probably, did longtime readers, who have been patient and sympathetic as I groused many, many times about the lack of speedy internet at something approaching a reasonable cost here in our little pocket of Eastern Ontario. (For a post that takes you to links telling the whole long, sad saga, click here.)

That real, honest-to-God internet is being beamed our way from a tower that Xplornet – the company charged with providing high-speed internet to Eastern Ontario – recently erected a bit northeast of Queensborough. The tower went live not long ago, and throughout our little village people are signing up for service, after years of the frustration and expense of second-rate solutions.

Today it was our turn. Ryan, a very nice young man from Xplornet outlet Elite Electronics in Tweed, arrived as scheduled this afternoon. He attached some sort of receiver thingy to the exterior of the Manse, strung a cable into the house, and set up the magic box that brings us internet. When we attach that magic box to the AirPort, we suddenly have internet all over the house.

The Magic Box

The internet control centre: the magic Xplornet box (small black thingamabob at right) connected to the AirPort (larger white thingamabob at centre), all of which bring us internet all over this old Manse. A vintage footstool found at a Maine antique market seems just right thing for the setup.

And it’s fast internet! And we have lots of it!

We opted for the super-duper Xplornet package that gives us 200 gigabytes a month (download speed of “25 Mbps,” whatever that means) so that we can stream House of Cards on Netflix and Red Sox games to our heart’s content. And our monthly bill will be about the same as the minimum we were paying previously for a wireless internet setup that gave us the barest of bare-bones service. (And sometimes sticker shock.)

It’s all so exciting! No wonder Raymond was exclaiming as he set up the devices. It’s wondrous! It’s magic! It makes we want to sing! And so here’s a song that came into my head when I wrote that bit about the Magic Box. From 1968 – the era when I was a kid growing up in this Manse. Who would have thought way back then that internet magic would not only exist, but be right here in little Queensborough?

Could there finally be hope for the internet in Queensborough?

New Xplornet tower

This notice in one of the local weekly papers, hot off the presses today, contains what I believe is the best news I’ve heard for a while. It brings internet hope to the Manse!

Oh, big news today, people. Big news! What news, you ask? This: that there might be a glimmer of hope that Queensborough will get out of internet purgatory – or is it hell? – and be able to enjoy the same access to the proverbial information superhighway that most of the rest of the world (and I include in this remotest Africa) already has.

I cannot begin to tell you how excited I am about this.

I have bored you dear readers (most of whom probably enjoy limitless high-speed internet at reasonable cost without even thinking about what a luxury it seems to those of us who don’t have it) many times before with the problems that Raymond and I, and other Queensborough residents, experience on the online front. (Want specifics, or a reminder? Some of my past posts on the topic are here and here and here and here.) When it comes to internet access, Queensborough people are in essence penalized because of the beautiful setting of our village: in a valley, with rocks and trees all around us. Because, you see, the valley thing means that the signals from the existing regional internet-signal towers don’t get to most of us. And trees mean foliage; and as one of the many internet customer-service people whom I’ve called up to complain told me recently, “Foliage is like concrete for signals. They just don’t go through.”

So here’s what happened today. In the middle of my busy workday, while I was editing some really fine student-written news stories and feeling quite thrilled at how well our team of budding reporters at Loyalist College Journalism is doing, a text arrived from Raymond:

WOW! Good news (I hope). Xplornet wants to put a tower up at 371 Declair Rd.

Well! You would probably have had to be here at the Manse one night about this time a month ago to understand how thrilled I was to hear this. That was the night when tears of rage and frustration were running down my cheeks because the slow-to-impossible internet, for which we are paying an arm and a leg, meant that it took close to four hours for me to put up a straightforward post here at Meanwhile, at the Manse about the gardens that would be on display during Historic Queensborough Day. I started in the early evening and, because it took hours to upload the photos (which would have zipped through in less than a minute in any normal internet situation), finished after midnight, long past my work-week bedtime. I was exhausted, frustrated, and mad as hades.

So what’s so exciting about a plan to put up an Xplornet tower on Declair Road? Well, I’ll tell you. Declair Road is located (despite the rather misleading “Tweed” address in the notice that Raymond had seen in one of the local papers, which you can see in the photo atop this post; Queensborough is in fact part of what I like to call the GTA, the Greater Tweed Area) just a couple of miles northeast of Queensborough. If a tower for Xplornet – an internet provider set up by local governments in Eastern Ontario (though it has now expanded to other parts of Canada) to bring service to rural areas – goes up there, it seems a reasonable assumption that its signals might actually beam down into Queensborough! I even venture to hope that this tower is being proposed precisely because the Xplornet people are aware – I know this thanks to a very helpful engineer with the operation telling me so last fall – that Queensborough is what they call “an underserved area” when it comes to the internet.

Now, you can bet your bottom dollar that I am going to be making some calls and doing some research on this. I don’t want my heart to be broken. I want to find out if this Declair Road tower will in fact make my life better, internet-wise. If it won’t – if it will only mean better internet for people outside the Queensborough valley – I will first despair, and then buck up and fight on. (Though of course I’ll be happy for those who will benefit from it.)

But I know there are others in Queensborough who are in much the same boat as Raymond and I are. Some of them are still having to rely on brutally slow dial-up internet. Some of them use Xplornet’s satellite service, and lose contact with said internet when there is snow. (Or rain. Or clouds. Or a hint of fog.) For some of them, including us, a wireless “hub” is the only option, and they pay a fortune for the slowest, most bare-bones service you can imagine. Streaming audio or video? Watching Netflix? You must be joking. Working from home through internet linkups? Not possible. It all makes me want to stamp my feet – as if I were again six years old, as I was once upon a time here at the Manse – and say, “It’s not fair!”

Ah, but that Declair Road tower might bring some internet. And some fairness. And that, people, would make me a happy, happy woman.

I’ll keep you posted.

The latest in our internet saga: sticker shock

internet sticker shock

Holy mackerel! $411.90 was not the amount I expected – or wanted – to see on my monthly internet bill. Especially when the usual amount is already fairly high, at about $100.

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?

The internet came in the mail.

the internet

It may not look like much, but this “Smart Hub” that Telus sent us has been life-changing. It has brought the internet to the Manse!

Regular readers will doubtless recall my various cris de coeur about our internet situation here at the Manse (and in Queensborough generally; the Manse is not alone in having internet issues). I’ve posted here and here and here (and probably elsewhere, but that’s enough for now) about how Raymond and I have had to rely on a very dodgy wireless Rogers signal via our mobile phones in order to have any connection at all with the internet. And of how the only solution that local internet-supplying folks could offer was to erect a fairly high pole at one extremity of the Manse property and stick a satellite dish on it and hope that the lovely tall trees in the vicinity would not get too much in the way of the possibly – possibly – adequate signal from one of the towers in the area. (I have learned of late that tall trees and internet signals are not a good mix. In the city, where we lived until last month, one of course doesn’t have to think about these things.)

Queensborough’s problem, internet-wise, is that it is in a valley. So while there are towers in our general area sending out wireless signals in the Xplornet network (a setup sponsored by the municipal governments of Eastern Ontario, which is very rural and, before Xplornet came into being, was not well-served with good internet), those signals are less than great when they get to Queensborough because of our lower elevation.

Bad internet was frustrating enough in the year and three-quarters that Raymond and I were weekend visitors at the Manse. Since we moved here permanently a few weeks ago, the frustration has frequently been off the charts. And while my inquiries about getting better service for our area through Xplornet were met with sympathy and an evident desire to help, the best that anyone connected with that project could offer was something along the lines of “We’ll try to get better service to Queensborough before too too too much longer.” It was pretty clear this was more likely to be years than months.

Argh.

But then something amazing happened. An internet miracle, really.

Here’s how it came about. A knowledgeable person suggested to me that I try the Big Three providers – Bell, Rogers and Telus – to see what they might be able to offer in the way of what’s called a Smart Hub. As far as I can gather, that’s a fancy name for a wireless router that gets a signal (if you’re lucky) from some tower or other and spreads internet through your home. Now, I know other people in Queensborough and area who have, or have had, a Smart Hub and are, or were, not happy with the internet that resulted. But I figured I had nothing to lose.

So I called Bell first – good old Ma Bell. The pleasant guy there asked for specifics on where we lived. And then, being honest (for which I give him full marks), said, “Well, I could send you a hub, but I don’t think it will work. Our towers don’t really reach that area.” My heart sank.

I was going to try Rogers next – not expecting much, because of the not-great Rogers signal on our mobile phones – but for whatever reason punched in the number for Telus instead. Telus is a company with which I had never had any dealings whatsoever, and I had never heard about them having towers around here, so I fully anticipated a brief and fruitless conversation.

But I hadn’t counted on Rohit.

Rohit, my Telus man somewhere on the other side of the planet, directed me to a spot on the Telus website that showed what kind of coverage was offered in our area. If the area was covered in green on that map, internet would be available, he said. And sure enough, the area all around Queensborough was coloured green.

“Rohit,” I said, “there’s no way. It won’t work.”

“It will work!” Rohit told me. And if it didn’t, he said, I could return the device – the Smart Hub – that he was about to have sent to me, and I wouldn’t owe any money. “But it will work!”

“Rohit,” I repeated, “I don’t think so.” But hey, it was worth a try.

Less than 48 hours after that phone conversation, a notice arrived in our mailbox at the Manse saying there was a package for us at the Madoc post office. It was the Smart Hub. I picked up the package a week ago tonight. But since neither Raymond nor I had the faintest hope that the Smart Hub would actually bring us internet, we didn’t race to set it up. Who needs a big disappointment on Friday night, the start of the weekend? Or Saturday night, when you’re in full enjoying-the-weekend mode?

But by Sunday night we figured we should give it a whirl, the better to get the thing packaged up Monday morning and sent back to Telus when the inevitable – failure to get internet – happened.

And something magical happened. It turned out that Rohit had not let me down. He was right. It worked!

People, since last Sunday night we have had internet. I can hardly believe I’m even typing those words. It is miraculous. Wonderful. The internet is a tiny bit slower than what we were used to in the big city, but really not so much as you’d even notice. It is stunning.

How Rohit and Telus have managed to send us this magical signal is a mystery. If there are Telus towers in this area, no one we’ve met knows anything about them. (Perhaps Albus Dumbledore is somehow involved.) Anyway, I don’t care how that signal gets here; I am just thrilled that it is here.

So: Queensborough people with internet woes, I heartily recommend giving Telus a little dingle.

Ask for Rohit. Tell him I sent you.

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.