The Rural Divide Rears Its Ugly Head Again
WITH EDITORIAL CONTENT
Six Rivers Radio is currently off the air locally though broadcasting from its backup facility in Montreal. While music will stream 24/7, all live and local programming is suspended awaiting a service technician from Bell Aliant.
The local service failed sometime between 10 am and 1 pm today and the usual efforts to restore the underpowered internet service were unsuccessful.
A technician at Bell’s telephone tech-support also failed to restore the service. He identified the problem with the external line, perhaps somewhere close to the studios in the Hope Centre, though the faulty line could be elsewhere in Pugwash or beyond.
Despite the importance of the radio service, a Bell technician will not be available till Saturday, leaving the local not-for-profit, community station off-air for 48 hours or more.
It is not the first time the service has failed. Numerous technical short-comings have prompted a number of visits by technicians who could do little more than apologize. One, who was clearly upset at being the face of the company before the customer, said Pugwash is operating on antiquated technology that Bell would continue to “milk” as long as they could, implying the company could do much better but will only upgrade when forced by regulators.
The distribution system for internet and telephone service relies on telephone wire, the light gauge, colour-coded wire that has been used in landline phones and homes for decades. A distribution panel in the basement of the Hope Centre looks like a rat’s nest of tangled, brittle wires in glorious living colour — red, yellow, green, and black. The technician mentioned earlier, said he has to fight with the same mess of wires in the system, hoping to find a pair that will actually carry a signal.
While the company coasts on old technology in rural areas of Canada, it races to compete with others in the big cities and urban areas where nothing but the best is acceptable.
Meanwhile, the federal and provincial governments continue to pour millions into improving rural communications infrastructure, while Cumberland and Colchester counties have partnered to enhance broadband services where Bell and its colleagues will not go.
Customers receiving internet service for the first time or those seeing improvements beyond dial-up may be delighted, but to call it “high speed” is the furthest thing from the truth.
Discussion has already started about 6G — the sixth generation of wireless service — even though companies are still rolling out 5G. But when you consider many parts of our rural neighbourhood are yet to see the first generation, the urban-rural inequity verges on criminal.
Instead of the various levels of government throwing tax payer money into a pit of mediocrity, the federal government should remind the CRTC — Canadian Radio-television, and Telecommunications Commission — that the original mandate was to protect the interest of the public.
In fact, the opening description on the CRTC website says, “We are dedicated to ensuring that Canadians have access to a world-class communication system that promotes innovation and enriches their lives. Our role is to implement the laws and regulations set by Parliamentarians who create legislation and departments that set policies. We regulate and supervise broadcasting and telecommunications in the public interest.”
Not only have they allowed a two-class, rural and urban system, they have done so while allowing Canada’s larger telecom companies, like Bell, to grow exponentially and become among the wealthiest corporations in the country.
Allowed to continue, the disparity for rural residents will only worsen while the telecoms expand their arrogance and indifference.
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