Some residents of eastern Ontario who lost internet access in the aftermath of last weekend’s storm are frustrated, saying the storm has underlined shortcomings of the digital age.
“Everything has been downloaded to the internet,” said Amber McCoy, who lives in Russell, Ont. “‘Go to the internet. Go to the internet. Go to the internet.’ And when it’s not there, where do you go anymore? “
Once the storm was over, McCoy – who’s been left without running water at her home – began searching for essential information, like the magnitude of the storm and how long power outages may last.
She was disappointed by the lack of useful information immediately broadcast on radio.
McCoy keeps goats on her hobby farm but felt left in the dark when, in her search for fresh water, she struggled to connect to the 3-1-1 phone line. With gas a precious commodity, she did not want to waste it driving around needlessly.
“There still needs to be some backup, bare bones basic methods of communication, to deal with this kind of scenario,” she said.
Challenging to work from home
Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson pointed residents to free WiFi at public libraries, community centers and city hall.
“I’ve heard from a number of people who are obviously concerned and upset that their internet service is off,” the mayor said at a media briefing Wednesday.
“But they would have to really contact their supplier. As I mentioned, we’ve got options available for people to come. I know it’s not perfect.”
According to Bell’s website Wednesday evening, most calls of service issues came from postal codes starting with K1A, K4C, K1H and K0A, which represent part of downtown Ottawa, Cumberland, Alta Vista and many of the towns surrounding the national capital region.
Likewise, Rogers’ website says most reports are from postal codes starting with K1A, K0A and K4C, with internet access being the most common issue.
Orleans resident Nancy Lebrun has been repeatedly disappointed by her service provider missing service resumption deadlines.
“I work partially at home and I need my internet and my husband works at home every day and he’s been without internet,” she said. “So it’s been quite disruptive.”
Bells Corners resident David Gilbert said the lack of internet access is affecting his livelihood, which involves connecting with clients virtually.
While he heard updates about when electricity may be restored, he only heard “deafening silence” about when he may have the internet again.
“Is it a day more? Is it a week more? And for those who rely on the internet for all kinds of reasons, that’s a challenge.”
‘Definitely has some shortcomings’
McCoy said her internet woes were only compounded by the number of people using data on their devices, which clogged up cell towers and made accessing and downloading web pages difficult.
While her power and internet are back, she said even a simpler web page – one without graphics – may have made it easier to access critical information.
“As awesome and amazing as it is, during something like this, it definitely has some shortcomings,” she said. “And we can not lose sight of the importance of other routes of communication.”