LOG CABIN CHRONICLES

The internet and no communications

Posted 11.28.17
FRED RYAN

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | Quebec's federation of municipal governments -- the FQM -- this week announced it's support of efforts to extend high-speed internet to all rural municipalities in the province. The FQM claims there are 244,000 households without real access.

The FQM is a partner of the provincial government, not a radical interest group! But it certainly is in touch with its members, every municipality in Quebec -- from the tiny (some under 100 in population) to the massive (covering swaths of territory larger than many nations in the UN) -- we can trust its numbers.

Important to note is that these numbers have been fairly constant -- specifically, the number of families with adequate access to the net is not increasing to any significant measure. The province knows this. There are programs and projects, campaigns and consultations, but internet access outside the cities and their satellite towns remains problematic. The reasons are usually technical, although some are a matter of political choice, too. Many are due to arguments about the ownership, use, and location of towers.

All to say that internet access is a long, long way from being a public good in our province. And our Liberal government knows this.

So why are its MNAs -- even cabinet ministers -- refusing to believe the facts? There must be motivations (this is politics), and they're probably financial. Perhaps Quebec has reached the limit of what we can afford to do, and that means that for the Liberals financial concerns are paramount to democratic ones.

Some citizens are favoured, others not -- depending upon where they live. And also depending on whether or not they are concentrated, stacked up in their condos, apartments and rooming houses or scattered in small villages, on farms (even trap lines) - - but is this what we expect in a democracy?

Internet access has been made an essential service -- by this very government! Yet it continues to treat the service as contingent, as convenient, almost as entertainment.

The Couillard government is following in the Federal Liberal footsteps in treating the internet and social media as the new normal. The Liberals have decided and have said very clearly that "old" or "sunset" media, such as the very newspaper you are reading, will not be used by government to communicate with its citizens.

Yet 244,000 Quebec families do not have the alternative connection. Our party in West Quebec, the Liberals, has decided that a quarter million Quebec households are out of luck -- and best left in the dark as for government communications, public campaigns, services, new laws and consultations, and so on. Are the Liberals calling us all "sunset" communities? Seems so. The latest funding announcement includes new dollars to extend access -- in what, ten years? And we're to sit in the dark?

Another H1N1 flu epidemic? Sorry, 244,000 families (who vote and must pay taxes) will not hear of the danger or its prevention. Health notices are just one of many communications many of us will now not get from "our" government.

How do we communicate our dissatisfaction back to "our" government?

By voting for another party next year?

john@johnmahoney.com




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