Editorial – ‘Good enough’ not good at all

Jeff Burgar

Every other week, we hear or read another story how one government or department or community group wants more action on high-speed Internet.
“We have to have it,” they say. “We are losing jobs and people all the time.”
Politicians are not usually credited with being bright bulbs on the Christmas tree, sharp knives in the drawer, or first seed to sprout. Fortunately, most are good people trying to do good in their community.
Thus it is fair to ask, do we really expect any expertise or background at all in broadband? Heck, it is rare to have a qualified carpenter, plumber or electrician on any council. The fact is, councils hire expertise. Even with a lawyer on a council, it is usual to hire an outside legal firm to look after community business. Same with accounting. So, it follows we hire consultants to look at our ‘broadband needs.’
Thankfully, when one hires any lawyer, their first inclination is not “let’s sue those bums and get them to court.” A doctor doesn’t say “You say you have pains in your side? Let’s roll you down to the operating room and cut you open.” But it seems the past ten years, Internet consultants are all about getting government money of some kind, and getting us all into that magic buzz phrase – “fibre optics.”
It’s interesting a more than two decades old Alberta initiative was supposed to bring high speed to all of Alberta. Hundreds of millions of dollars later, do we ever hear of Supernet? A great promise, Supernet was stifled by big business, bad execution and actually uninformed politicians. And so today, despite all the government money supposedly coming down the road, and the money spent on listening to consultants, and all the Supernet fibre out there across the province, most of Alberta is not much closer to a functioning ‘broadband’ service as it was years ago. But guess what? While progress in ‘fibre’ in rural Alberta seems stalled, many alternate services out there are catching up. There are big and small companies providing, in most cases, darn good internet services.
Last week, our personal Rogers Rocket Hub running LTE internet cell service cranked out a down speed of 23.87 Mbps per second average with a max of 31.46. Our Explornet test (speedtest.net) at the same time gave us 15.95 down. But then Explornet failed, an irritating item that happens nowhere near as often as cell phones dropping signals or not working, but does happen. With Rogers, upload speeds were 3.2 average with a max of 4.51. To make sense of this, these speeds are plenty for streaming hi-def movies and video conferencing, Your writer has not had buffering for over a year. Latency is still an issue for telehealth and gaming but half of two years ago. Overall, these are huge leaps forward. Today, the Rogers service is 1/10 the speed of Starlink, but 1/10 the install price and 40 bucks cheaper per month. Fast enough for 90 per cent of users.
As said, broadband life is improving all the time. There are many options, Starlink one of many. Communities want speed. In some ways, their pursuit of perfection has actually made things slower.

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