I have terrible Wi-Fi. I don’t know if the fibre optic budget ran out somewhere further down the road, or if rural Angus is just destined to have dial-up level speeds forever. Whatever the reason, the Wi-Fi is and always has been slow in this house.
Most of the time, this is only a problem in the sense that Netflix takes a little longer to load or a download takes twice as many minutes as it should. When the world shuts down and all our work and social lives transfer online however, the problem gets bigger.
Attempting to navigate a fully online university course and a placement at the Scottish Mountaineering Press with Wi-Fi this bad is a challenge. It is like being in an episode of The Cube, always some unique challenge to achieve what seems like a simple task.
The last 6 months have consisted of speaking into my computer only to have the message delayed by 15 seconds, at which point the conversation has already moved on. Or I have been forced to turn off my video in a breakout room whilst everyone else is on a video call.
A lot has been said about working from home, both by those who never want to go to the office again and by those who can’t wait to tear down their home desk setup. I can’t say either way which I prefer, having never worked in an office.
If the consensus opinion does shift to working from home however, it is important to remember that not all home offices are created equally. At the end last year The Guardian reported that 190,000 homes did not have access to internet speeds of up to 10mbps, saying that “ “forgotten homes” across the UK are being left behind in the government’s digital revolution” (www.theguardian.com). This is the minimum speed thought necessary for a family in 2021. Most of these homes are rural.
In the rush towards a digital future, it is important to remember that not everyone lives in a city, and not everyone wants to. If we’re serious about giving people the choice to continue working from home, it’s also necessary to give people across the country the tools to do this properly.
What would be hard to watch is industries, such as publishing, in which many people have to move to London or another large city to get a job manage to reverse that trend and let people work from home, only to find some areas better equipped to deal with remote working than others.
The Scottish Mountaineering Press, who I have been on placement with this semester, publish titles highlighting the natural landscape of Scotland. It would be a shame if the people working on these titles could not do so from the landscape itself.
More and more as time goes on, the internet is necessary to live. Banking, shopping and now even working for some people have all slowly migrated online. While this endeavour has succeeded in making us as connected as we ever have been, it’s also important to make sure nobody gets left behind.