Ryder Lake residents are not giving up in their push to get better internet access.
A second open letter from people living in the rural area of Chilliwack has gone out to local, provincial and federal politicians and the CEO of TELUS. This one shares 26 ‘stories of distress’ from residents who say they’re feeling disconnected during the COVID-19 pandemic.
People who are working from home say they are hindered by outdated and inadequate internet infrastructure that produces unreliable service.
“I am a kinesiologist forced to work from home due to Covid-19 restrictions,” Ryder Lake’s Robin Anderson notes. “We conduct one hour virtual sessions with our clients using a platform similar to Skype and Zoom. There have been numerous occasions when I’ve had to drive down into town in order to successfully complete these sessions. In addition, I am required to maintain a certain level of continuing education credits in order to maintain my certification. I do so by attending webinars and other online courses. I fear I will be kicked out of a webinar due to the internet crashing. This would cause me to lose money and access to valuable information.”
At a time when the public school system has been forced to go online, teachers and students in Ryder Lake say they can’t function.
“I am a kindergarten teacher and I have been trying to talk to and connect with my class on Microsoft teams,” says Charity Stobbe. “I am not able to lead a class because my internet clicks me out. They are all so patient and hopeful to see their teacher and do some normal things. I want to badly to finish reading our novel, the Big Friendly Giant, but can’t. Next week I will have to drive to town and sit in my car to do our meeting. It is heart breaking to lose connection like this right when they need me so much.”
One mom says her son, who is a high school senior, is having to drive his car to somewhere with an internet hot-spot and spend an average of three hours a day, five days a week, following his online classes.
A grandmother says her grandson, who has social and learning disabilities, is losing what he’s gained at school over the last year.
“With COVID-19 social isolation we’re not able to keep vital connections he desperately needs with his school teachers and classmates that is provided online,” writes Ginger Moore. “The constant screen freezing when and if you can keep a connection just adds to the already frustrating situation here. Having to rely on cell phone data to connect anyone in our household not only costs an absolutely ridiculous amount per month, it also increases the gap in emotional suffering and learning disability for my grandson.”
The survey has 410 signatures.
Organizer Andy Harrington says the community of 1,500 has lobbied TELUS and various levels of government for years with little success.
B.C.’s Ministry of Citizens’ Services recently announcing a $50 million ‘Connecting British Columbia’ program to improved access to high speed internet in under served areas, and Harrington believes Ryder Lake should be near the top of the list for funding.
“The two letters we’ve sent have attracted attention,” he said. “We still await a response regarding the new fund and ISP’s (internet service providers) accessing it.”
Responding to the first open letter that was sent in early May, TELUS spokesperson Douglas Self said “TELUS currently serves the community of Ryder Lake with wireless service from a local cell tower, and high-speed Internet access over copper.”
To date, Self said it hasn’t been financially viable to upgrade internet “in a remote areas where there is a small population across a sizable chunk of land” without using a cost-sharing model like a public-private partnership.
“We remain committed to working with the government, the community, and other government agencies to explore options to enhance connectivity in this area,” he said.