For most of us, it’s become as commonplace as a pen and paper. We use it to work and play, to shop and browse, to connect and stay in touch. We use it to watch movies, listen to music or do our taxes. The pandemic highlighted just how reliant we are on this technology, not only to remain connected but to work from home or talk to our loved ones over Zoom or FaceTime.
In the South Cariboo, the Internet has even allowed people to move here from the city because they can now work from anywhere.
But for many people, especially in rural areas, the Internet is anything but reliable.
The South Cariboo Regional District is in the midst of analyzing a recent survey on cellular and broadband services across the region, where Internet speeds can be slower than a drip of molasses.
It’s not surprising then that the “Better than Nothing Beta” of billionaire Elon Musk’s new internet service Starlink is seeing a big uptake here, especially in areas like Forest Grove and 100 Mile House. This ambitious project aims to ultimately offer internet to the entire planet by the launch of thousands of low-orbit satellites. The initial cost to buy in is steep, but so far it seems that people are saying it’s worth it.
It’s a good step in the right direction. As we move more toward working from home, or outside corporate offices, we can’t afford to not have high-speed Internet across the entire province.
But it has to be affordable to all.
Since its inception, due to both the realities of infrastructure and larger budgets, urban areas have always had better internet services than rural communities. Most internet services in major cities rely on wired connections to operate which, for a city, is a relatively easy infrastructure to install. When it comes to installing this in rural communities like Horse Lake or Forest Grove, however, where homes are spread out across larger acreages, such infrastructure is at best expensive, or at worse, impractical.
This is why for many years rural residents have had to rely on dial-up internet access or more recently satellite internet like the services provided by Xplornet. Even still, speed has been slow and insufficient. Yet even with Starlink, there will be those who can’t afford to get it.
In this day and age, when the Internet is such a big player in our lives – indeed, some argue it should be a basic human right – it’s crucial that we all have the same ability to stay connected.
The internet has become an essential service. We know that now more than ever. And we can’t allow people to be cut off simply because of where they live.