Rancher relying on hotspot for internet thrilled broadband deemed essential service

The CRTC recently ruled that broadband internet was an essential service. Adrienne Ivey, who owns a cattle ranch near Ituna, Sask., talks to CBC Radio's Afternoon Edition about what that means for her business dealings.

Family's mobile plan allows 15 GB per month before speed is throttled, affecting business, banking, education

Adrienne Ivey says her family relies on a mobile hotspot connection, which allows them 15 GB of data per month, for internet use and business dealings. (Joe Fiorino/CBC)

Ituna, Sask. isn't exactly far off the beaten path — but it can be tough to get a good internet connection there, says one rancher.

Adrienne Ivey and her family operate a cattle ranch outside of Ituna. They tether to a mobile hotspot which allows them to use 15 GB of data per month.

"You're in the middle of bidding on a $200,000 tractor and your internet crashes," Ivey said. 

Earlier this week, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission declared access to broadband internet service is an essential service. 

Ivey said the ruling is fabulous.

"I think it's a very big step that the powers that be are recognizing that this is an issue," she said.

Ituna is roughly 110 kilometres northeast of Regina, and near centres like Fort Qu'Appelle and Melville, as well as the city of Yorkton — all places where internet service isn't hard to come by.

In rural and nearby areas, getting a decent and reliable connection is another story.

'Options are basically nil'

"I think the biggest shock, I guess to myself, and the more that I've talked about this is that we're kind of the norm," she told CBC Radio's Afternoon Edition.

Ivey said she realized how common sub par internet service in rural areas is while discussing it on social media with others in the same situation.

"In rural Saskatchewan, you don't have to be very far outside of any small town and all of a sudden, your internet options are basically nil," she said. 

Rancher Adrienne Ivey says her family's limited internet access can have an effect on business dealings, like bidding on auctions for equipment. (Adrienne Ivey/Twitter)

The bigger picture

Ivey says her family's mobile data plan is hit-and-miss, but is ahead of where it was even five years ago.

When the limit has been reached, data is slowed significantly. SaskTel's fair use policy states that after a certain data plan has exceeded its monthly allotment, speed is slowed to two megabits per second for the remainder of the billing period.

"By managing the data usage of a very small group of the heaviest data users, we can maintain a higher quality of service for all customers," SaskTel says on its website.

"They basically cut you right off," Ivey said. "What's left is probably the equivalent of dial-up internet speeds."

'Not complaining that we don't have Netflix'

There is no room in their data plan for leisure activities such as watching Netflix or the odd YouTube video, which her children might also use for a quick educational tutorial.

But the Ivey family also banks online, which can also prove frustrating. 

"We need to manage our data as best we can for the business side," she said.

"We're not complaining that we don't have Netflix," Ivey said. "It's bigger than that."

Her kids do get access for homework assignments and projects, Ivey said, but it's very limited. The best part of any vacation for the children is getting to connect to a Wi-Fi spot, she said.

People leaving rural Canada for the big cities is an issue, she said. And quality of life issues like poor internet access don't help.

"We still need people that are farming and that are populating rural areas. To do that, we need to make sure life in rural areas is just as great as life in the city."

With files from The Afternoon Edition