It’s seems as good a time as any to write the eulogy for Island Tel: the new telephone books are out, and they’re quite clearly Aliant-branded, with the old Island Tel name having shrunk to a tag-line along with the names of the other old-line telephone companies.
You can’t really blame Island Tel, err Aliant, err BCE for making themselves bigger and bigger and thus less and less local: everyone else is doing it, after all. From Home Depot to Verizon to Air Canada, our service corporations are expanding and becoming more generic and distant.
I can’t help wonder, though, what would happen if Island Tel’s shareholders had decided to be brave, buck the trend, and reinvest themselves in being a local telephone company, managed and controlled locally, responding to local needs, driving the local economy, employing local people? Surely, if nothing else, to do so would have been to leverage the company’s (and the Island’s) natural strengths: strong local brand, unusual customer loyalty, and the uncanny ability of Islanders to be nimble, flexible and wily as a compensation for small size and fewer resources.
The sad thing is, we’ll never know what might have happened. What we do know, with some certainty, is that as we become aliantienated over the months and years to come we’ll no doubt have access to a broader range of services, more attractively priced. Offered by a generic company controlled from Halifax, essentially indistinguishable from any other telco in North America.
It’s not so much that things will get worse: it’s that we’re left to wonder how much better things could have been.
Good-bye, Island Tel.