Ottawa anti-poverty advocates say Rogers Communications Inc. should go beyond offering basic internet services to people in non-profit housing and instead expand the service to all people living in poverty.
On Thursday Rogers said it was expanding a program it already offers in Toronto to tenants in non-profit housing developments across the country, granting them basic internet access in their home for $9.99 a month.
Rogers said 1,100 residents in rental units owned by three non-profit housing groups in Ottawa, including the Centretown Citizens Corporation, will get discounted internet to start.
But Blaine Cameron, a member of low-income advocacy group Ottawa ACORN, would like to see the program expanded to those in non-profit housing.
He lives on provincial disability benefits and says having a roommate and family help is the only way he can afford internet service.
"It's not a luxury, it's a necessity," said Cameron. "You're accessing government services, job searching."
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The Rogers service would deliver download speeds of up to 10 megabits per second, and up to one megabit per second for uploads, which Cameron suggested was slow.
But Rogers spokesperson Deepak Khandelwal said the company found from the pilot project that the speeds were sufficient for most people's needs, including checking email and looking at job boards.
ACORN is lobbying the CRTC to require interent providers to provide high speed, affordable internet service to anyone living in poverty. Those hearings begin next week in Gatineau.
Khandelwal wouldn't comment on what Rogers' response would be if it was required to offer such services.
"We'll wait and see," he said.
Cameron thinks Rogers, however, can do more.
"The big three [telecommunications] companies making huge profits... they can afford to look out for the vulnerable in society," he said.