Disdain For the Internet

One of the CBC reporters said something to me yesterday that was rather an epiphany. I said to him, “I want internet access to be able to work. It’s not like I’m asking to do Netflix marathons.”

And do you know what he replied?

“This is the 21st century and we’re in a developed country. Getting on Netflix shouldn’t be an issue.”

He made me realise that I’ve been mad at the wrong people, like Google and Apple, for creating services that don’t take into consideration that not everyone on the planet has super duper high speed internet with unlimited bandwidth. They’re not the problem. The problem is ISPs. And in Canada, that means the problem is the government because it has given telecom monopolies all the power to set rates and service levels.

Not only does the Canadian government have a measure of disdain for this vital resource that the United Nations declared in 2011 as being as basic a human right as access for fresh water, but so do the people who decide who can and who can’t get the service. Whenever I’ve called SaskTel, they have been flummoxed by why I could possibly need internet that badly, wondering what the hell I do with all that bandwidth every month. It’s none of their business! I have an ‘unlimited’ data plan and I pay my bill each month. What I do with the service, as long as it’s not illegal, isn’t their concern and should have no impact on their decision to give me service or not.

It’s interesting that even after 20 years of internet coming into our collective consciousness, it is still regarded as a frivolous thing by so many people. Whine about no access to television? That is a big deal. Whine about no access to internet? You’re an addict who needs to get a life.

It’s funny that things people consider to be necessities. I’ve lived long periods of my adult life without running water and electricity beyond what I could generate for myself and I have never had television. People think I’m nuts to live without those things. But I get by fine without them.

The only thing I need to have a quality of life, I have been denied at every step. When I had my house in Quebec, it was the exact same bullshit as here. I briefly had good hard wired internet in a rental house before going RVing, as well as during my Campbell River and Lethbridge winters and many other stops along the road (thank you, lovely hosts!), but otherwise I’ve struggled with mobile bandwidth being cost prohibitive. Internet access has been, and remains, as much a struggle for me as it is for folks in Nepal.

It feels like I’m getting close to the future the internet promised me so many years ago. Finally, finally, I have an unlimited data plan at a rate that is fair at this time and in this place. Right now, in this country, my plan is the pot of gold at the end of the telecommunications cable. Yes, it slows to molasses speed after I use up 10GB, something I will address in a future fight, but for the first time ever I’m not worried about how much bandwidth I use and I don’t have to pay an arm and a leg for it!

SaskTel pissed off the wrong customer. They thought that by ignoring me, they’d get rid of me. How very wrong they were. I’m savvy about the issue, understand the technology, know my way around government red tape, and am used to speaking publicly. I am also tired of dealing with this crap. Now that I’m living somewhere I’ve decided to grow roots, I will not back down until I get satisfaction.

I still believe in the good things I’ve said about SaskTel in terms of how much they’ve improved telecom in Saskatchewan in just a few years. But they have dropped the ball here with their stubbornness to rectify an obvious mistake and by treating me like I’m an idiot. I don’t live in the middle of a desert island in the high arctic, so stop telling me that I should go with satellite service.

I want 21st century internet speeds! I want to be able to sync my devices, do security updates, and send emails without any drama!

And being able to stream Netflix would be nice, too, thank you very much!

5 thoughts on “Disdain For the Internet

  1. Just from an rving standpoint, rvers complain about wifi signals everywhere we go. Apart from our home in Mexico, internet access has been a problem on all our trips. Last year traveling through the western U.S. and Canada, it was always a problem. A strong signal in public areas doesn’t exist. Sad because we are teaching technology (blended learning) in schools throughout the Americas and for what? I don’t know what it’s like in Europe, maybe better or the same.

    • I’ve written extensively about the fact that I firmly believe that RVers who NEED internet should pay for it themselves rather than use up other people’s bandwidth. Don’t complain about a service you’re not willing to pay for yourself. If you’re just on the road a few days, stopping in at a McDonald’s or Starbucks is fine, but for long-term, get mobile bandwidth. If you insist on using public wifi, don’t steal bandwidth by downloading movies or doing other heavy chores. Maybe we’ll one day live in a world where the internet is just ‘there’, free and unlimited for the taking, but until it is, remember that it isn’t.

  2. Your anger with Sasktel just shows how ignorant you really are.

    No private company is ever going to come in and build towers at a massive loss to provide service to such a small market. No matter how badly you think Sasktel does, rest assured that things would be far worse for rural if they weren’t around. Towns like Assiniboia with 2,500 population would be lucky to have service, let alone St Victor with 25.

    Honestly, the big 3 (Rogers, Bell, Telus) own plenty of low band spectrum which is ideal for rural coverage. But you don’t see them competing for much outside of Saskatoon or Regina. They only compete where there is money to be made. They have no interest in expanding out their own networks here. Instead they horde valuable spectrum to use as bargaining chips, forcing Sasktel to take less favorable roaming deals with them just to survive.

    Sasktel is not perfect. But they bring in a lot of money for our provincial government, and invest an awful lot of money & resources into providing very high quality service to people who would otherwise be forgotten about. Try moving to rural Manitoba or Ontario. You might just find that things aren’t so bad back in Sask.

    If you lack services, then your anger should really be with the big 3 telcos, and the CRTC which makes rules that hamstring Sasktel, and make it increasingly difficult to expand service into money losing markets such as yours.

    One other thing, which is very important for you to understand. Your big issue seems to be with the choice of tower location at Scout Lake which by your estimation was a mistake.

    The truth is, there is more to a modern cell network than just coverage. Everyone wants fast data which chews up capacity on towers pretty quickly. It’s very likely that Scout Lake was chosen to help boost overall capacity for an already congested site. RF signal may have had very little to do with the decision. This “screw up” may have helped hundreds of people to have 2-3 bars of more reliable service. Meanwhile your suggested location may have provided very strong 4-5 bars of useless, congested service for everyone who wants to use it outside of the hours of 1am-5am.

    If you honestly think you know better than Sasktel’s engineers where they should put their towers, you should send them your resume, and then you could show them how it’s done.

    • “Your anger with Sasktel just shows how ignorant you really are.”

      Your comment shows how ignorant you are of the entire situation.

      SaskTel intended for us to have the service. They screwed up in where they put the tower.

      “No private company”

      SaskTel isn’t a private company

      “is ever going to come in and build towers at a massive loss to provide service to such a small market.”

      Shows just how much you know.

      I lived in the far north for years. Communities much smaller than this with a lot less infrastructure and a lot more distance to their next nearest town had cell service and sometimes even hardwired broadband.

      I have a friend who lives 25 minutes south of Dawson City, YT. She has to canoe across half the Klondike River, portage across an island, canoe across the other of half the Klondike River, and hike through the bush to get to her home. Bell recently put in a new tower near the Dawson City Airport about 15 minutes as the crow flies from her property, but behind trees and hills, so she couldn’t get a decent signal. She called to ask if there were going to be any future developments in her area. In less than two weeks, Bell increased the gain on the tower and now she has 4 bars of LTE service all through her property. Bell examined her issue, found that they could solve it cheaply, and did. SaskTel owes its customers the same courtesy.

      “If you honestly think you know better than Sasktel’s engineers where they should put their towers”

      I don’t. That’s why I went to a company that installs repeater systems to get their thoughts. They did a site profile and said that the fact that SaskTel put us on a coverage map immediately after the Scout Lake tower went up is all the proof that’s needed that they didn’t do any analysis of terrain versus population to make sure the tower was going to be of use to anyone. With what GIS data this company could access, which is surely less than what SaskTel has access to, they determined that the entire area up there is covered by the Rockglen, Assiniboia, Willow Bunch, and Limerick towers and that another tower was not needed in that position.

      Because of terrain, we have to connect to Limerick, a tower that is overloaded, which further compounds our problems. If we were able to connect to the tower we were meant to be able to connect to, that would ease issues with two communities.

      Finally, the private company can solve our problem for $20,000 to $25,000, which my community can’t afford. SaskTel, not having to come in from Calgary and likely getting better deals on their parts, could easily come in at 2/3rds to half of that. This would be an insignificant expense for them.

      I am in personal contact with the NDP critic for SaskTel and the minister responsible for overseeing SaskTel. SaskTel is refusing to talk to them. Both the critic and the minister are pushing for an investigation into my claims (supported with evidence) that the Scout Lake tower’s positioning was a mistake. Would they be wasting their time on this issue if they didn’t think my claims had any validity? They recognize that we are in a tourist zone and that a major incident is going to happen one summer at the big biker rally held at our regional park every year, for which there is no emergency plan. We have two museums in our tiny town and our petroglyphs attract tourists from all over the world. If it was just us, I’d agree that SaskTel has other priorities. But when communities smaller than us that never gets tourists already have service and SaskTel is now improving that service while we have nothing, that needs to be rectified.

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