William Matheson (nova_one) wrote,
William Matheson

The 'Net in Nunavut + The Herald Line

Every day, CBC puts out an "Editor's Choice" podcast (feed here), and the Choice podcast the other day alerted me to the state of the internet in Nunavut. I have to admit that it wasn't something I'd really thought much about.

The full interview is also available (and originated from) the latest Spark podcast. Rankin Inlet correspondent Jackie Sharkey explains how they live with a very limited internet experience. The good news: The new banking and shopping possibilities are a godsend. On the other hand, watching videos on YouTube or uploading pictures to Facebook (let alone Flikr) is pretty much out of the question, as they live under a 2GB monthly transfer limit. If you exceed that, you get an e-mail about how you're not sharing very well, and you get bumped down to dialup-equivalent speed. (You'll also hear that in Nunavut, "not that cold" means -15°C.)

Meanwhile, here I am in Japan, downloading podcasts willy-nilly, streaming TV (mostly live sports) from our basement back home, and watching full broadcasts of The National whenever I feel like it (usually Friday nights Japan Time, as Rex and the political panel (one of the best in the Anglosphere) are on the Thursday night broadcast). I may be better "connected" than many Canadians. Of course, one could argue that I'd be better off in the real world instead of functioning like a low-grade neural net, but I just have to know.

Remember the Herald Line? In the early 1990s, I called it every day - I just had to hear the latest Earth and Sky broadcasts, among other things. The road reports were also fun to listen to - you could imagine the plight of those poor drivers on "snow covered, passable with caution" roads in far-off Cape Breton. My junior high school even put the homework assignments on the hotline! Once in a while the paper would print a list of the four-digit access codes and I'd cut it out and save it and write in all the older codes and the codes they didn't reprint. I even discovered things like the homework hotlines of other schools. It was just - WOW - instant information! Metro lake ice conditions! Beach and ski reports! There were even games, if you can believe it - mostly music-related, if-that-was-Stealers-Wheel-press-2 kinds of games. I remember that my then-Aunt suggested that I might be addicted to information. I think she was right. And I honestly thought that the Herald Line, or services like it, would be how we'd get information going into the 21st-century.

Getting back to the bandwidth issue, when I was in Ukraine, the internet at the Academy was metered, and although we had "unlimited" quotas, the Academy students did not, and we had our own accounts disabled when they detected that we were sharing our access codes with our friends in the student body. For better or worse, it was a for-profit operation, and the Rector got a cut. Upon further reflection, I suppose that arrangement was better than no internet at all, and as Shelley put it then, "We don't appreciate how valuable the Internet is!"

It's humbling to realize that this also applies within my own country.
Tags: bandwidth, cbc, information, internet, japan, nunavut, ostroh, podcasts, travel, ukraine

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