The pandemic has led to an exodus to rural areas. The possibility of teleworking accompanied by the arrival of fiber optics in small municipalities has made it easier and has favored their growth. This new way of working has led to a revolution within the towns. Some did not have good internet access and, with confinement, connectivity became a necessity for the population.

Optical fiber already splashes various small municipalities in Catalonia. Among them are Sant Martí Vell (Girona) with 251 inhabitants, Figuerola del Camp (Alt Camp) with 329 people, Ribera d’Urgellet (Alt Urgell) with 932 inhabitants or Palau-Saverdera (Alt Empordà), with 1,400.

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The difficulty of installing the network in the territory or the few inhabitants of the place “away the interest of the big companies”, complains Jordi Verdú, mayor of Corbins (Segrià). In autumn 2019, fiber optics arrived in this municipality located eight kilometers from Lleida. “After the confinement, many people are moving to live in the villages and the young people who have lived their childhood here are becoming independent to stay in the village. People no longer see the need to live in the city because they can have what they need in town ”, celebrates the mayor, who attributes it to this improvement in connectivity.

Corbins won the wifi4eu contest, an initiative promoted by the European Union to subsidize the connectivity of public spaces in the winning municipalities with 15,000 euros. “We have free Wi-Fi points throughout the town. Public places such as the swimming pool, the pavilion or the theater have repeaters installed to offer Internet to all the inhabitants ”, explains Verdú.

On the other side of Catalonia, Daniel, a resident of Palau-Saverdera, recalls that before having fiber optics, “the inhabitants of the town who wanted to connect to the internet had to do so through radio frequency.” Both neighbors and municipal governments criticize that good connection to the network is prioritized in large cities, leaving them forgotten. The mayor of Ribera d’Urgellet and president of the regional council of the area, Josefina Lladós, highlights the increase in the number of subscribers to fiber optics during the pandemic. “Although it has been the local operators that have bet on the people and not the large companies that possibly did not pay,” he warns.

Despite the initial complications of fiber optic installation, some municipalities have already made the leap to 5G. A spokesperson for the Camprodon City Council (Ripollès) points out, however, that the priority before 5G – in the process of installation – is to solve the connection in the area surrounding the center of the municipality. “We want the most advanced technologies to arrive, but they are for everyone and not just for the lucky few,” he says.

According to Telefónica, the best connected small towns in Catalonia are: Riu (Cerdanya) with 93 inhabitants, Pedret i Marzà (Alt Empordà) with 195 residents, Aiguaviva (Gironès) where 765 people reside, Botarell (Baix Camp) with 1,077 registered and Vallfogona de Balaguer (Noguera) which has a population of 1,906 people

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