I’ve been planning to post some news for a while. Most notable perharps was the fact that the wild fires burning large areas of Vancouver Island forests have obscured the skies for a few days, producing haze that looked like fog but never lifted, and sunset colors at 4 o’clock in the afternoon. But I’ve been discouraged by rotten cell phone and wifi connections. So what I want to rant about today is the terrible condition of the Gulf Islands network of telecommunications.
Let me take a single example – one among many such instances: we reach Montague Harbor on Galiano Island. There is a provincial park bordering a large, protected bay where a hundred boats are anchored or moored. There is a marina, kayak rentals, a dock where seaplanes come and go, ferrying passengers to Vancouver or various other destinations in the island. We anchor in the middle of the bay, a short dinghy ride from the marina. No cell signal. What? Telus, Rogers, nothing. We try 2 French phones, one from the US, one from Canada, no way. It means not only that we can’t call anyone, or get called, but that we cannot use our data plans to get an internet connection. So forget about a detailed weather forecast tomorrow before leaving. And forget about posting news on our website.
All right, we’re living an adventure after all, forget about the convenience of the modern world, let’s grab our phones and our PC’s and ride to the marina’s restaurant! Once there… still no cell signal. What? The beautiful maps on the Telcos’ equally beautiful websites show that the area is supposed to be fully covered. Maybe nobody came to check? And maybe there was no petition by the inhabitants, no lobbying from the local politicians… or maybe there was? It’s probably why they still have an old telephone booth, a relic from last century, and still in working order.
Fortunately, the restaurant offers free WiFi. The friendly waitress gives us the password: beefnachos. Not very romantic, but fitting for a restaurant after all. Except that it does not work. Are we missing something? No, it’s true, says the friendly waitress, sometimes it doesn’t work, sorry for the inconvenience. The beer tastes bitter. Come on, British Columbia. This is 2018! The right to be connected is more or less constitutional! Are you sure that your economic system and your regulatory environment have produced the maximum efficiency possible? I’ll let you drool a little bit: my subscription with Free, my French telecom company, allows me unlimited phone and text communications in 40 countries, including the USA and Canada, with 25 Gigs of data per month, and no extra charge for using my phone as a WiFi hotspot. How much? EUR 19.99 monthly. A great plan… if I can get a cell signal…
But let’s not be discouraged. To keep our spirits high, and to capitalize on the great produce we can find in the islands’ Farmer’s Markets, we decide to prepare a classical “ratatouille“, inspired by the recipe of our much admired, and recently passed away Chef Joel Rebuchon. Quite a job, but what a treat! Some other time, it will be his famous “purée“, or mashed potatoes.