Letter to the Editor

Oakley Rankin


City West Optical Internet: You should vote ‘YES’!

I will be voting ‘YES’ for City West Optical Internet service. It’s a no-brainer.

When I was a youngster my father’s friend, Hal Berry, owned the National Light and Power Company which supplied electric power to Moose Jaw and a small surrounding district. Hal had a business rule: if you lived more than 12 miles from Moose Jaw you were stuck with kerosene lamps; his company would not service you. Like most farm communities across the prairies there was no profit for a private company in supplying you with electricity. In 1944 the CCF government under Tommy Douglas was elected and among their promises was rural electrification. Just as he later saw that no citizen should be denied medical service because they couldn’t pay, Tommy saw no good reason why every farmer and farming community in the province should be denied the benefits of electrification just because someone could not make a profit from it. So in 1949 under the newly passed Rural Electrification Act, the Saskatchewan Power Corporation was formed. A few years later Hal’s company, along with many others, was bought out. Hal retired to the Bahamas but would often return to visit friends in the city that he had done so well by. By 1966 over 66,000 farms had received electric power through an innovative single wire ground return system which significantly cut costs—and of course, had always been available to the private sector as well.

It may be a bit of a stretch but if you substitute the municipally owned City West for Saskatchewan Power, Telus for the National Light and Power Company, and the single wire ground return system for optical cable you may begin to see why the City West proposal will benefit many more people than Telus intends to. Telus, like Hal, wishes to make a profit by ‘cherry picking’ and we, on Denman, Hornby, and a host of small communities are the ‘barren’ trees. Just as the single wire ground return system was an efficient way to bring farming communities in line with the necessary electrical power available to urban concentrations, so optical cable will bring well over 100 small coastal communities to a level playing field with urban Canada. Tommy realized that electric power was becoming a necessary communal right and that private enterprise was unwilling to provide it to one and all. City West realises that High Speed internet is similar to electric power in the forties and fifties—fast becoming a necessary communal right as more and more operations migrate to the World Wide Web, dropping their ‘manual’ procedures on the way.

Of course Saskatchewan Power was paid in large part by tax money as the City West proposal will be. However if your taxes rise by even $80 annually ($7 monthly) and you sign up for City West’s 125 Mbps internet at $80 monthly you will still pay $33 less than Telus’ $120 current monthly charge for a 75 Mbps optical service—which isn’t even available on Denman or Hornby. Most of us however will save even more as City West’s 20 Mbps service at $57.45 is probably all we need. And City West promises to return 20% of their profits to the community! Optical cable is inherently much faster than copper cable and only a deliberately greedy mind would dumb down an optical cable to the speed that the 30 odd residents of Hornby I have polled pay for as high speed—0.7 to 2.0 Mbps.

In 1969 I was operating mainframe computers in Stamford, Connecticut, Toronto, Ontario and London, England in real time over an ordinary telephone line from Northern Electric in Montreal, instructing them to run my programs and print out the results. No colourful display units, just punch cards and readers, teletype keyboards, acoustic couplers, tape drives, and chain printers. That was my ‘internet’ 52 years ago! I don’t know how many years one should wait around for Telus to provide all their customers with an up-to-date service comparable to the rest of the country but at 81 I have waited long enough.

I will say that I have the highest praise for the Telus employees Vitaliy, Mike and Lorne, their predecessor, who give the best of themselves to keep a 20th century system going for a company that does little to bring us into the 21st century.

P.S. At the moment City West, unlike Telus, does not offer cell phone service of ANY kind, let alone ‘5G’. They have no cell towers.

Oakley Rankin