Expat Asides

Online, Offline
By James Clapham

The Internet is a funny thing, especially when we’ve been so used to, spoilt even, by the services available in England. At the moment, Virgin in Canada doesn’t offer home internet, but in the UK it does under the guise of Virgin Media. Our house there was tiny by Canadian standards, but we had the utter luxury of having fibre-optic cable for around 30 quid a month (just under 60 dollars) with unlimited usage. High-definition movies would load on Netflix within minutes, we could watch random videos on Facebook without any bother and online gaming would have been no trouble at all if I was so inclined.

And then we moved to Tofield.

We had to adjust rather dramatically to what was available in the “rural” district that is a mere 40 minutes away from Edmonton. The greats such as Telus were only wanting to offer us a package that may as well make you go back to using two cups attached together with a piece of string. Or even, *gasp* a book! It’s a First World problem, but it sure is irritating trying to entertain small kids when it’s way too cold to go outside to do anything worthwhile. We use another brand called Xplornet, and when your limit is up, it’s up. For 20 dollars more per month than what we were paying in England, our service is slow, slightly frustrating, has limits and is apparently dependent on whether there is a storm or not in Newfoundland (not kidding), or Alberta, or possibly a cosmic surge somewhere in the Milky Way.

Another thing that we had to get used to in the Great White North is how much of a thing online shopping is. Or, rather, isn’t. We have to ask that if, say, Telus or Shaw ever got around to connecting Tofield or any of the rural areas to the rest of humanity through the wonders of fibre-optic cable, then what would the limits be of having online shopping at Superstore or Wal-Mart, where a wizened old man would come and give you your groceries from out of the back of a small van? This would be a huge boon to people such as my wife, who has three kids and finds it difficult to get out of the house in any given time frame since our children act like, well, children.

Tiny Britain provides this, it has an overcrowding problem and its economy is pretty strong due to all this online trading business. I’m still waiting to hear Alberta’s excuse.