Respectively President and Vice-President of the High Speed Internet Committee of Saint-Adolphe-d’Howard
Many opinion letters have been written recently to denounce the “great digital darkness” in which the regions are plunged. The observation is always the same: reliable and efficient access to the Internet is vital for the social, cultural and economic development of the regions.
Saint-Adolphe-d’Howard, a small town in the Laurentians an hour from Montreal, suffers from serious shortcomings when it comes to Internet access. The problem existed long before the pandemic and it has been exacerbated by the pandemic. Young people have not been able or cannot “go to school”, teleworkers cannot “Zoom”, teenagers cannot connect with their friends, single people are left alone, and so on. In connection with the pandemic, mental health problems are on the increase, causing stress, distress and tensions among citizens. Even if available in theory, Internet access in Saint-Adolphe is very uneven – even non-existent – depending on the topography of the place and very variable depending on weather conditions and the time of day. What is more, for low or medium quality of access, subscription costs are sometimes excessive, and for some have increased considerably during the pandemic.
Although Bell denies it, the message is recurrent: its internal processes are the source of interminable delays in the preparation of the infrastructures necessary for the deployment of the Internet (“the poles”), measured in months, even years. Bell recognizes the problem and is committed to simplifying access to its infrastructure. But can we trust it? The coordination table set up by the government last May is mandated to support the deployment of projects that provide businesses and citizens located in rural areas with high-speed Internet service. Understand: resolve the issue of the posts. Sitting at the table, Bell, Telus, Télébec and Hydro-Québec. To date, little has come from this committee. What’s going on there? Problems persist, citizen groups are forming … and more letters are being written.
Everyone agrees that the Internet is essential for the development of our regions. “Ordinary” citizens, however, are utterly powerless in their inability to get things done. No “home” solution possible to acquire Internet. From one announcement or promise to another, nothing changes (or so little). The citizens are taken hostage.
Mr. Legault, Mr. Fitzgibbon, you were elected by promising to connect all of Quebec before the end of your mandate in 2022. Time is running out. In the absence of suitable Internet services, it is easy to imagine what will happen: the regions will continue to empty and therefore become poorer. Local communities are exasperated … but remain willing to work with decision-makers so that the issue is finally resolved. Beyond promises and speeches, it is political will that is at stake. We still trust you.