An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.
THERE’S A MAJOR SCHISM between urban and rural areas when it comes to the level of services they receive. This has been driven home to me more than ever during the pandemic.
We all know about other obvious rural service issues — access to healthcare and clean water, for example. Many services taken for granted by urban dwellers such as curbside garbage pickup simply aren’t available to many rural residents.
High-speed Internet and mobile phone service are two more that are especially essential in this work-from-home world.
Today marks my return to the CFJC-TV studio after working from home since March. It’s a miracle I didn’t miss a single segment considering the snail’s pace of my Internet service. The record uploading time for one of my editorials to an online sharing platform in order to get it to the station was more than eight hours.
You heard right. Eight hours. But, at least I’ve got service. Many have no Internet at all.
There’s a widespread expectation that as we return to more normal life, a lot of business will continue to be carried out on a virtual basis. This will leave the rural economy at a severe disadvantage.
Thus far, providing broadband to rural areas has been encouraged with a carrot approach with mixed results. There are many grant programs and frequent promises that all Canadians will soon have equal access to the digital world but it’s slow to become reality.
Cell service is even more of a problem than Internet. Major phone carriers simply aren’t much interested in expanding service outside major corridors because they contend there’s no business case, and they’re right. The costs are high but it shouldn’t be an option.
Until they’re forced by legislation to provide blanket service as part of their licence to operate, there will never be equality of service in this country.
The carrot hasn’t worked; time for the stick.
I’m Mel Rothenburger, the Armchair Mayor.
Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops and a retired newspaper editor. He is a regular contributor to CFJC Today, publishes the ArmchairMayor.ca opinion website, and is a director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.