Published en El Pais, 28 April 2021.
For the past week and a half, I have been in a countryside with very little internet. Even my phone data was inconsistent at times as loading a simple web page on a Friday night was a tall order. Several years ago, and even today, the older generation reading this might have sighed and said something about people being too addicted to technology and while one can make the argument we need to disconnect once and a while, the internet is no longer a luxury like it was in the past. People need it to work, play and connect to the rest of the world. However small rural communities are being left in the dust.
The pandemic of course has brought light to such an issue. Many have opted to move to the countryside due to the fact they are working from home and deem it safer than living in the city right now (it is easy to stay 2 meters apart when your nearest neighbour lives 200 meters away). Small towns are also less congested which makes it easier to keep your distance as well, but if the internet is sub par this is not an option. Working from home not only requires a strong fast internet connection but one that is consistent as video calls, streaming and large data transfers are required in order to create that environment that is just like the office.
Internet providers will be quick to point out the cost of it and while traditional methods of providing internet are in fact costly for small populations companies are creating new ways to provide internet to sparsely populated regions. Google has been working on internet balloons for the past few years and Elon Musk has his Starlink project to put thousands of satellites into space to provide a global internet coverage. It is time that internet providers stop seeing them as competitors but as a solution to their problem and work together to fix this problem.
In the future we may not be talking about a small portion of the population either. As more and more people are considering moving out of the city with working from home becoming more permanent, companies will soon feel more pressure to fix this and now is the time to find solutions.