I have seen calls in our local papers on why allowing our small island into the modern age with the arrival of fiber internet is somehow a bad thing. I notice these letters are from retirees who believe that somehow allowing us to get to the same level of internet usage as most smaller countries will create more gentrification, and more wealth disparity. I am here to give another view. For those of us that didn’t already own houses and have equity, and/or live through the golden years of Canada in the 60s/70s/80s (where a high school education got you a job that made and equivalent of $70k a year in today’s dollars), working online or in tech is pretty much the only way to afford to buy/build a place on this island anymore. As far as I can see, it is the only way to keep our island from just being a playground for rich retirees. It is the way our youth can excel and learn to deal with the rest of the world on their own terms. The past 2 years many of the youth on this island have been struggling with the internet as they try to do online college, or high school students trying to keep up with their classes as the screens freeze.
As a working “young person” (my ongoing joke that I am somehow part of the youth of Denman Island at 46), I have been trying to make a living on this rock for almost a decade, and I can tell you that even though we bought our house over 7 years ago before the real estate went extra crazy, there are almost no “regular jobs” that can help you to afford a house on the island. I worked full time on the ferry and could barely keep up with the mortgage and normal expenses, and I don’t even have kids. Construction pays better, but still not enough to buy a base level house on this rock, which appears to never be under $500k now. In times of Covid – kids have been doing schooling online, people who didn’t work from home before ended up working online and many of them are happy to not have to commute and pay for the ferry every day, creating more exhaust in the atmosphere, and enjoy more time in their homes. I personally pay for multiple internet sources – Starlink and a smart hub, so I can try to complete my work, but there are still slow downs and interruptions that make me write off some days of getting things done.
So how exactly has gentrification not already happened? The idea that the island will be “ruined” by the tech people is flabbergasting to me. I work in tech, have been a member of the fire department for years, worked to help with low income housing, put on concerts, and done many things for the community. I want this island to stay vibrant, I want more creative folks to come and make more strangeness, but somehow claiming that needing internet with a reasonable speed to do your work is a bad thing? Even if you are an artist today, you probably make most of your money selling your work online. The times they are a changing once again, and somehow trying to fight off the outside world will not create a better community, it will just make us less vibrant and alive.
I believe that getting better internet on the island will allow us to have more young people move to this island. It will allow the creative folks to be able to make a living, and have time for their community and kids. I believe it will be better for the youth of the island who can learn about the world around them. We can all take free classes from a variety of universities if you like, stream a free concert, or communicate with your loved ones abroad. Anyone can choose to spend more or less time on the internet, and I quit Facebook over a year ago in large part due to the bulletin board and all the misinformation and anger that seems to fuel it. That is not the whole internet. The better the internet works on the island, the more time I have to enjoy nature, the people, and the island which I love. So please, for the sake of those whose livelihoods depend on it (aka just about everyone under the age of 50 on this rock), let us get some decent internet like the rest of the world so we can get our work done, and enjoy more time away from the machines.