The community in St. Victor, Saskatchewan is feeling disconnected from the digital world and ignored by SaskTel, the primary provider that serves the area.
St. Victor, which is about 200 kilometers southwest of Regina, has poor cell service and no wireless high-speed internet. The village is sitting at the bottom of a valley, so connections to the nearest cell towers are unreliable. Rae Crothers, who needs a web connection to work from her home in St. Victor, said:
“It’s the 21st century in a first-world country and I can’t get internet? We are a community that’s 50 kilometers from the U.S. border [and] between the Trans-Canada [Highway]. We’re not in the middle of nowhere.”
Several people in the village have been using cell phone boosters in order to amplify the weak signal. However, these devices can cost several hundred dollars and don’t always provide a reliable solution. Wendy Olynyk, who has tried using cell phone boosters, said:
“As long as your phone is right beside the booster, on a good day you might have four bars. If you go a little bit away from it, you lose it.”
Zachary Flynn, who subscribes to a satellite internet service, is frustrated with the slow transmission speeds and connection interruptions. Flynn said:
“It was costing me $95 a month to have internet that worked intermittently. You might be able to get to a web page once in a blue moon.”
Even though the village of St. Victor is home to about 25 people, Crothers believes that much of the surrounding area is also affected. Crothers has raised the service issue with SaskTel, but was told not to expect any improvements for at least 10 years.
“In a written statement, SaskTel acknowledged St. Victor is in a limited coverage zone. According to SaskTel, service to rural communities is very expensive and Saskatchewan has the fewest customers per square kilometre of any province. Terrain can also affect the range and quality of wireless services, the company said. SaskTel also pointed out that its wireless network reaches more than 98 per cent of the province’s population.”
SaskTel says it has no current plans to expand or enhance wireless service in the St. Victor area.