Why I Need Fast, Reliable, and Unlimited Internet Access

That I even have to explain why I need fast, reliable, and unlimited internet access speaks volumes to how Canadians and Americans (whose internet situation is only slightly better than ours) have been indoctrinated to perceive internet usage: as something frivolous and unnecessary.

So I will tell you that I need fast, reliable, and unlimited internet access because my livelihood depends on it.

I run a transcription business. I have been doing so for five years now. I have no idea what it is people think I do all day, to be honest, because, based on some of the comments I’ve received about my need for internet, it seems that folks think I’m on Netflix all day or something. There is zero comprehension that my anger, frustration, and impatience at my internet situation are driven by a much more powerful emotion: fear.

Those of you who have ever run your own business know how hard it is to do so. I’ve been able to work solely for myself for four years now and for the last two and a half, I’ve been turning a profit and making a decent income. Of course, work comes in peaks and valleys, but I can ride out the slow months now. I have a solid stable of clients and an immense freedom of schedule. Every time that I have an internet outage or that speeds slow to a crawl is a moment that threatens the very foundation of my life.

Here’s what I use internet for on a daily basis, how my internet situation makes these things difficult, and why the solutions people give me simply don’t work for my situation.

Downloading files from clients using Dropbox, FTP, Hightail, or even receiving them as email attachments.

Just for work files, I can go through 20GB to over 100GB of bandwidth in a month, depending on how many video files I receive. Again, this is business usage! I’m not downloading TV shows or streaming Netflix. This bandwidth represents my monthly income.

Slow internet means that it can take forever to download anything. I usually have to turn down rush jobs that pay very well because I know I won’t have time to download the files and type them in the allotted amount of time.

Flaky internet means that downloads often drop. This is a major issue with the Hightail file sharing service in that if the connection drops in the middle of downloading a 1GB file, I have to start all over again, wasting both time and bandwidth.

Every client I’ve taken on has a clause in the contract that says that their subcontractors must have fast and reliable internet access. So there is no sympathy for me on days when the wind is blowing the wrong way, service is very spotty, and it takes me so long to download a file that I don’t have enough time left to type it by the deadline. I just don’t get paid for those files.

I lost one really good client because I had to work on their proprietary online platform rather than downloading files to my computer and it would take me about five times as long as anyone else to stream their audio and so I wasn’t able to meet the production metrics.

People who are unable to sympathise with my internet connection and/or don’t get just how much I need to download for work will tell me, “Just download overnight,” or “Go up the hill to the good signal once a day to download.” This isn’t a solution. If I’m up the hill for six hours a day downloading, I’m not in my office typing and earning income. If I start a download overnight and it times out, then I have the risk of the files not being ready for me to type in the morning.

Communicating with clients by email and Skype.

This is one area where I know that very few people understand what it means to rely on the internet for communication purposes in a business setting. I cannot believe the number of people who have told me to check and send emails twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening, and not worry if I can’t receive or send anything during the day.

I communicate daily with my clients throughout the day. Some days are quieter than others and then there are days when I can’t get any real work done because emails won’t stop coming in. When internet drops and emails don’t come in in a timely fashion or the connection is so flaky that I can’t send even a small attachment, that affects how I look professionally. There’s nothing like getting and replying to a message with “URGENT” in the subject line an hour late to tell your clients that you’re not professional and not reliable.

Until I was able to get my better booster (thank you again to everyone who understood why I needed help with making the purchase and generously donated), I frequently had to pack up my computer and park my truck at the top of the nearest hill in order to send work. That is all time that I am not at my desk earning money.

Also, I have clients all over the world. Last summer, I was doing some projects out of Tunisia and Senegal and my client needed to speak to me from Dakar, shooting me an email asking if “now” was a good time to Skype as that was obviously the best way to do it. Skype sometimes works at home, but I can’t rely on it not dropping out and this had been a particularly bad day for internet. I replied that I needed 20 minutes, then hurriedly packed up my computer and drove to the nearest spot with a decent signal. Well, my client had been available 20 minutes before, but not then, and I had to sit up there for 30 minutes before he was available again. Again, this was time that I lost out of my day when I could have been making money and which threatened making a deadline on a project.

This happened again recently. A client in Kansas City wanted to Skype at his convenience. He’s a busy doctor and making an appointment doesn’t work well. When I was in Mexico, he knew that if Skype said I was in the office, he could call me and I’d be able to drop what I was doing and deal with him. Here, we had to try three times before we were able to make a satisfactory connection.

Doing research.

I transcribe a lot of highly technical material and so am constantly on Google researching spellings and other information needed to properly transcribe my files. A lot of my legal work has addresses, so I’m using Google Maps. Google does not work well unless you have a blazing fast connection. A simple Google search, not even in Maps, can take me ten minutes or more on a bad day.

I used to highlight those instances in my files and then, at the end of the day, look everything up at once. First of all, this took as much time as making each search individually. Second of all, I often would type these things phonetically. If I couldn’t find my answer based on my phonetic spelling, I would have to rescan the audio file to find that particular word or phrase and try other phonetic spellings. It was very time consuming and inefficient.

As a final note, I really shouldn’t have to waste my time writing all these letters and posts, making all these phone calls, and pleading for a service that the vast majority of the rest of the world takes for granted.

Just think for a minute of the hours I have put into demanding 21st century-level internet in my part of Saskatchewan and how much income I have sacrificed to give this project all that time.

Would I really be doing that if internet access was something that, really, I could do without? Or if, “Taking a deep breath and trying again in a few hours when the internet works better” was a viable option? Or that I would have pleaded for help to buy that better booster if I didn’t truly believe that I was going to lose the best contract of my life because I couldn’t reliably receive and send emails with small attachments?

If you think that the answers to any of those questions is no, then you’re part of the reason why Canada is far behind most of the rest of the world in matters of telecom. You really need to get out of this discussion so that those of us who want to move into the 21st century can get things changed.

7 thoughts on “Why I Need Fast, Reliable, and Unlimited Internet Access

  1. I really enjoy reading about all your adventures but this internet access subject strikes me as being your problem in not living in a suitable area. It’s like the people who choose to live near an airport and then whine because of the noise. Time to move I think.

    • NO. You’re comparing apples and oranges. That kind of thinking is a major part of why Canadians are never going to have decent internet. It is utter bullshit to tell me that I am being unreasonable for demanding internet in this area and that I have to move when there are smaller and isolated communities up north that have service. We got screwed over by SaskTel and I am not dropping this issue until we get decent internet service, whether it be cell coverage or DSL.

      When I bought here, we were slated to get cell coverage within the next year and, sure enough, a year later, SaskTel announced that we had cell coverage. I have all the evidence for that, which SaskTel destroyed after I starting poking holes in their story about why they put the tower where they did. The lawyer I’ve been dealing with in regards to the CRTC hearings said that in just about any other jurisdiction on Earth, I would have the smoking gun to successfully sue in this regard and get the tower resituated. He also agrees that it is idiotic that we have phone service and that upgrading our lines to support DSL was never in their business plan.

      So far, I have both the provincial and federal NDP parties on my side on this issue. I have a lawyer fighting for my community (among many others). And I have an independent company that installs repeater systems who agrees that not only was due diligence not done when installing the Scout Lake tower, but that that tower is providing redundant service and therefore is wasteful. SaskTel is a Crown corporation and so accountable to taxpayers. They should all be outraged by this.

      And there is no guaranteed “suitable” area for internet, as I wrote about in this post: http://www.raecrothers.ca/blog/internet-access-is-the-main-reason-i-am-going-to-emigrate-from-canada/ I’ve been bullied by ISPs all over the country in, both rural and urban settings.

      • PS I created this blog to write about all aspects of my life. Internet access in Canada has been a major issue my entire life and so it will remain and I will not shut up about it. If you don’t want to read about it, then don’t visit the blog when I’m in SK.

  2. PPS, I’d have a lot more to complain about if I lived anywhere else:

    1) Mortgage payments;
    2) Climate;
    3) Stupid bylaws;
    4) High property taxes;
    5) Living with sheep who think the conformist Canadian lifestyle is the best thing on the planet;
    6) Not being allowed to use my RV as my residence.

    I have three issues here, two of which are minor and wouldn’t be a problem if I was here year round as I would find workarounds. The other one is major and something that the right people are finally starting to get outraged about too. So I won’t let the sheep who believe that everything in this country is just as it should be stand in my way of getting this issue resolved, no matter how long it takes.

  3. Rae, in this day and age you would think that here in Canada that we would have Internet everywhere. Fortunately I live in a small city where I can access internet whenever I want to but I chose to live here where I could have all those things are within reach. As an Internet mechanic, I give guidance on the unique service requisites for specific instruments. I also prefer a fast connection. I discovered that when I was in Europe that wifi was less than desirable and that sometimes it was non existent. Many hotels even three and four star include wifi in their brochures often do not have it in their rooms but in some obscure spot behind or in the vicinity of the office where you will be sharing space with other disgruntled members of your peers grumbling about third world Internet in this modern day world. Of course your connection is pretty slow and some whiner will complain about your skype conversation is cutting into her quiet time while her under tens are screaming around her feet causing havoc for all.
    Personally as a motorcycle traveller I can stay anywhere, tent living is quite acceptable however my long suffering wife is not willing to forgo comfort when in her mind it’s unacceptable but that is another story.
    Seeing as your wifi connection is the lifeblood of your business you could consider moving to a more receptive area where high speeds won’t endanger your licence and you can get all the work you need without travelling to a hilltop far far away.
    These days we are blessed with immediate access to the Internet almost everywhere, however the free stuff can be mediocre at best and the stuff you pay for can also be of an inferior nature. I’m sorry Rae, I think you will have to move to where the grass is greener or else you will be continuously unhappy…

    • I’m am leaving. I wrote a post about that. I’m off on my grand world tour and them I’m moving permanently to Mexico. You couldn’t pay me to live anywhere else in this Canada so off I go. But I’m still going to fight this injustice because that’s what it is.

      I don’t use public wifi unless I absolutely have to. I use my own cellular connection and I know I will be very happy with cellular service in most if not all of the places I am about to visit in Europe.

  4. In the past year, I visited Ireland, Northern Ireland, (N.I. Is technically part of Britain but physically part of Ireland) Scotland and the Canary islands and Mexico. Guess where wifi was best, more accessible and reliable other than Canada?
    You are correct, door number five! Carlos Slim has his country hot wired for greatness!

    We will be here on the sidelines cheering you on, you know.. That flicker in the corner of your eye? That’s us on the fringe of of the nether space and reality.
    Looking forward to your next missive..

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