Can you imagine going weeks without the internet?
It seems unimaginable in this day and age, but that’s what people in the Northern community of Stewart are doing.
But it’s not by choice. Instead, they’re being forced into a digital detox.
Stewart Mayor Galina Durant says it happened because the small non-profit that ran the district’s network couldn’t afford to keep up with the changing technology.
“Demand was growing, and the was now high demand for the high speed, and One Way Out society couldn’t provide it without the equipment and without the upgraded system.”
One Way Out posted a statement to it’s website explaining why it is ceasing operations.
“It is not our intention to stand in the way of progress. The infrastructure required to deliver internet and possibly cell service is extremely expensive – to do it effectively Stewart needs a tower that can serve the entire community.”
Durant says the community learned it would be cut off in September and has been trying to figure out a solution since then. It is now working with Telus to connect to an upgraded microwave connection. But she says it could take between eight to 12 weeks for that to happen.
“I hope it will not go so far.”
But she says in the mean time, it’s causing massive headaches for locals.
“It’s not just entertainment, and it’s not just staying connected. It’s doing business. It’s finding services. It’s to learn in, it’s to train in. “
The lack of quality broadband service to rural communities has been a growing problem in recent years. In 2014, Ottawa pledged $305 million in a bid to shore up slow service.
But the most recent statistics from CRTC show BC lagging behind other provinces, with nearly 25% of communities lacking access to high speed service.
Earlier this fall, the BC government pledged $10 million in a bid to connect more than 70 rural communities to high speed internet by 2021.
Listen to Lynda Steele’s full interview with Mayor Galina Durant about Stewart’s internet problem