So the whole DRM thing is still a problem for most people and it shows when you join a region. You might have 2-14 other people in one region but chances are they're not around anymore. I assume it's a mix of losing progress from being disconnected or screwing up your layout and re-starting. What this leads to is developed towns not being able to ship out goods or attract tourism slows production adds debt and overall makes playing online useless! For the headache that were all facing trying to connect and play chances are you're going to jump ship and try to find a populated server but it just keeps happening. I had myself a nice oil tycoon going on tons of oil and I couldn't get rid of it same with fuel.
Anyways I'm not sure how EA / Maxis is going to handle all these empty servers but I would suggest finding some friends to play with before starting a city (unless private). Last point add me if you want to play Fr3t78. I'm a fan of exporting goods so someone make a gambling town for my sims lol.