An entire town in northern Canada just lost its internet. Not for a few minutes. Not even for a few hours. The area’s one and only internet service provider went out of business, and now the town of Stewart, British Columbia will be without internet for months.
This is what happens when broadband monopolies rule the world.
“For me, personally, it’s like my life stopped right now,” Stewart’s Mayor Galina Durant told the CBC. “My community, including my house and my office, will be without an internet connection.”
You can only imagine what losing connectivity means to local businesses. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for remote areas like British Columbia or, well, all of Alaska to struggle with connectivity. It’s expensive to build the infrastructure required to connect these areas. Even then, the companies that do manage to connect these rural areas can always turn off the data hose for one reason or another.
In the United States, at least, the Obama administration has taken steps to motivate ISPs to build out their networks and bring connectivity to remote areas. That’s great! But it’s not going to solve our shitty internet problem. (The race to build a space internet might, but it’s going to take a few years before a clear winner emerges.)
Even in populated areas, a massive number of Americans and Canadians have only one choice when it comes to picking an ISP. So even if you live in the middle of a city, you could still become victim to your local monopoly’s whims. Obviously, the ISP going out of business—as it did in Stewart, BC—is an extreme example of what could happen. Price hikes, bad service, and a whole host of other annoyances are a reality for many citizens with no choice.
Monopolies suck. That’s why there are laws against them. The state of big telecom in North America is complicated and ever-changing, but let’s just hope we figure out a solution soon. Otherwise, we could all be left offline.
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