The truth about reliable internet service in cottage country

Published: December 30, 2020

Senior Couple Sitting On Sofa Using Laptop to access the internet At Home Together Photo by Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock

The biggest change to cottaging over the last 100 years? The ability to be internet-connected: we are becoming more connected at the place we go to disconnect. And this year, many cottagers retreated to their second homes, laptops in hand, to wait out the pandemic while working remotely. It’s a massive shift in our collective understanding of who cottagers are and what they do with their time.

If you’re thinking of retiring or moving to the cottage full-time, it’s likely that you’ll want to stay at least virtually connected when you move, even if you don’t plan to continue working. But if you’ve been paying attention, you know that internet service in Canada’s rural areas is dismal. It was one of the biggest complaints we heard from cottagers who were considering moving to the cottage. Think hydro rates are bad? Wait till you see the cost of high-speed internet, if it’s even available in your area. When it is, bad weather, high usage on your lake, and landscape can all wreak havoc on the signal. “The things that we love the most about our property and the surrounding area are the trees and the rock. However it is these two things that are preventing us from getting satellite internet service,” says Beth McKay, who cottages in the Haliburton Highlands. “We are absolutely not cutting down one tree, and we are not going to blast away any rock.” 

Beth may not have to flatten her property if the government comes through on pledges to improve Canada’s rural broadband networks. The CRTC’s Broadband Fund, for example, will provide up to $750 million over five years to fund projects to increase rural internet access in underserved areas of Canada. Meanwhile, the Broadband Internet Service Availability Map may be useful to tell you how bad (or, for a lucky few, how good) service actually is in your area.

But we’re not there yet. In the meantime, you may need to consider a signal enhancer or an internet hub, such as the Rogers ZTE hub that thirtysomethings Chris Petrow and Amanda Tancredi use at the cottage they built—and hope to eventually retire to—on Redstone Lake, near Haliburton, Ont. They’ve been working there since mid-March, and while Chris says they’re still pulling 70- to 80-hour weeks, they’ve got the best view in the office.

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