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February 14, 1876 Alexander Graham Bell was awarded the first telephone patent. Now, 140 years later, the old system is receiving its pension. We are tearing down the old copper wires for a transition to mobile phones and stationary phones connected with wireless technology, a brilliant future. The process did not start yesterday, but has been ongoing for a couple of years now. One thing that concerns me is the level of ignorance towards all of those who live either in the 16% of our country’s area where there are natural reasons for low or none reception. Centralisation is not only fueled by politicians as it is an indirect ongoing process. It has the potential of leading to a depopulation of more rural regions while those responsible will preach of our open landscapes that are a fading reality.
I remember receiving a call while working with the technical support team for one of Sweden’s largest phone providers. An old man was living alone in the outskirts of Lapland in northern Sweden, he had called multiple times with a cellphone for which he had to walk seven kilometers uphill to get reception, just to be told that service was on the way. This time he was totally devastated. They were not fixing the problem, they were removing the old wire, his lifeline to civilisation. As he cried in my ear, he explained that with no wire and no reception he was cut off, what if something happened to him. There was simply no way that I could do much to ease his situation. There was just one thing I could do, find out why Skanova [a network capacity seller] was tearing it down.
When I contacted the owner of the wire they acknowledged that they had personnel in the area working with the issue the old man had called about. When confronted with the fact that the wire was being removed, they seemed quite surprised. After searching through their orders for that region, the person I spoke with found an explanation: there were “too many errors on the wire and only one customer, it was unprofitable to repair…”
When I bluntly told her about the situation this old man was facing she still insisted that it was not of their concern and that we as a service provider should install the cellphone alternative. This was despite her knowing there was no reception and simply no way that my company would spend the money needed to guarantee a working phone.
I was fighting a losing battle.
Sadly I have no knowledge of what occurred after I parted with the old man. Maybe he was forced to move or maybe he continued to live the rest of his days out in the remote parts of Sweden. I neither know nor does this story tell. My intention is to bring awareness of what is going on. While living in a big city and having all the comforts needed it is easy to forget the harsh reality of our dying countryside. This is something I can hardly see as unique to Sweden, but as a phenomena happening whenever technology advances. Maybe you can relate?
I think it is important to be aware of how decisions are taken without sufficient knowledge, or as in this case, while ignoring that knowledge. We are the ones creating the future and it is on us to decide if we will leave people behind.
I will remember, remember those who were left behind due to our efforts to proceed into the future. Will you? Maybe you will not be affected directly but when people cannot live rurally, people will move. Farmers will stop cultivating their farms, villages and even small towns will turn into empty shells only habited by ghosts as they all move to the cities. We already see a domino effect with housing prices skyrocketing. By killing the country side and its possibilities in order to flourish we create new problems. It is time to handle the consequences of those who are ignored and for future decisions, no longer hesitate learning about the reality we will decide upon.
By Jean Don Norsass
Picture 1: gato-gato-gato, licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Picture 2: brittgow, licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0