I remember being incredulous when access to the Internet was declared a human right. I remember thinking, there are so many other things that are much more important than Internet access.
Fast forward to 2020, and the Internet is our lifeline. We have four adults in the household, and we all need to be online for our work. Lucas needs to be online for school. We need the Internet to pay for bills and to check the news. We go online to order food and supplies. Many of the apps we use need an Internet connection, so we can send and receive packages, files, and everything else we need.
So imagine having to go two weeks without Internet.
It was a Saturday in the middle of November when it conked out. A strong typhoon had just hit our area, and we were told that the outage had affected a lot of households. So we reported it via Twitter, over the phone and via email, and we waited.
Unfortunately, Globe mobile data signal is pretty weak at our house, so tethering our laptops to our phone hotspots wasn’t a viable option. We had a Globe MyBusiness prepaid box too, but that didn’t work very well either. We tried Smart prepaid, and that was a little faster and more stable. Still, it wasn’t enough for our needs: my mom and her voice and video calls; my brother and I, and our meetings; Oneal’s webinars; Lucas’s online classes.
If I was just writing, reading and answering email, and doing research, it was okay, but I had to work offline and free up bandwidth so that Lucas could use Zoom for class. It was impossible for my mom and my brother. We ended up going to a coworking space nearby–my mom daily, my brother and I maybe two or three times a week. Oneal had to go to Yale a few times, late at night, because he had early morning webinars and meetings. My brother tried going to the office, so he wouldn’t have to spend for the coworking space, but traffic was so bad that it just wasn’t worth it. Luckily, my manager said I could reimburse the cost of the Grab rides and the coworking space; my mom and my brother didn’t have that option.
Finally Oneal went to the brick-and-mortar office of our service provider, PLDT. He lined up for over six hours, and it took another two or three days before our connection was restored.
It was so stressful. It was two weeks of leaving the house almost daily, especially if we had many meetings; packing lunch, snacks, mugs, tumblers, and jackets; packing up all our devices and notebooks and other work supplies. It was exhausting.
The ordeal also emphasized the absolute necessity of the Internet. It wasn’t just that we couldn’t watch Netflix or YouTube, or listen to Spotify. We couldn’t talk to people we needed or wanted to talk to. We couldn’t access materials we needed for our mental health, like meditation and yoga. We tried voice and video calls, and it was just so stressful.
I can’t imagine the distress, anxiety and exhaustion of all the students and teachers struggling with online learning during the pandemic. It makes me angry that the government has done so little to improve infrastructure around the country, so that those most in need of connectivity can access work and education. It’s infuriating that we have to pay so much for terrible service and slow access.
Two weeks without Internet. Twenty years ago, I would not have been able to imagine this distress. Now, it’s like life comes to a stop if you can’t get online.