The Internet is Us
It has been well over a decade since the federal government promised to make broadband Internet available to all Canadians.
My daughter’s 97-year-old grandmother, Rita, is perplexed by how the books get to her Kindle from the slim little black box in my son-in-law’s hands. “Are all the books in that box?” she asked. The question has nothing to do with senility, she is as sharp as a whip. It’s more a measure of the chasm that has opened up in just a few years since she last had reason to check in on technology. In fact, actually using the Kindle posed no real challenge for this survivor of the London Blitz with a deeply ingrained do-it-yourself attitude. She quickly found her way around it, enlarging the type to just a few words per screen. For an avid reader who is physically limited and whose eyes have failed beyond the help of large-print books, it has been a lifesaver.
The Internet has also helped her communicate via Skype with her sole surviving sibling in England, a sister she would otherwise likely never have seen in person again.
These are just small stories about how the Internet helps preserve the day-to-day humanity of one elderly woman in Orangeville, but multiply them by magnitudes in scope and content, and it becomes clear why the United Nations deems access to broadband Internet a basic human right, comparable to health care, shelter and food.
The U.N. report describes the Internet as “one of the most powerful instruments of the 21st century … by acting as a catalyst for individuals to exercise their right to freedom of opinion and expression, the Internet also facilitates the realization of a range of other human rights.”
Of course, there is a dark side to the Internet, but then there is always a dark side to the history of human endeavour, and it must not be allowed to overwhelm the vast opportunity the Internet provides to liberate and expand human potential.
Still, as Jeff Rollings writes in this issue in “The Need for Speed,” this vast opportunity remains theoretical for a large number of citizens in the hills who struggle with dial-up, or no service at all.
It has been well over a decade since the federal government promised to make broadband Internet available to all Canadians. Now, as Jeff reports, in the populist way of the Internet itself, rural communities here and elsewhere are taking the matter into their own hands.
We believe theirs is a task critically important to the social and financial well-being of rural Ontario – and it is urgent.