Chronicle Herald: Protesters take aim at Internet costs

A group from the Nova Scotia chapter of Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now met in front of the CRTC building in Dartmouth on Tuesday to rally against high-priced Internet access.
“Right now, people are relying on libraries and community centres (for Internet) which are already packed with people,” said Jonethan Brigley, Dartmouth chairman for the Nova Scotia chapter of the group.
The association is an independent national organization of low-and-moderate-income families. Chapters from across the country delivered statements to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission about how crucial the Internet is to members.
“Without fair and equal access to the Internet, we are left by the wayside, uninformed and forced to remain poor,” said Rick Pelley of Halifax in his statement.
Tuesday marked the deadline for the first phase of the CRTC’s review of basic telecommunications services. The CRTC is investigating to see if broadband should be considered a basic telecommunications service and would thus improve Internet access and subsidies.
“Why gouge people so much that they may have to make a decision to either buy food, but not necessarily medicine?” said Patsy Hollis from Halifax in her testimony. “To stay home and call in sick because they don’t have enough money to put gas in the car?”
Bonnie Barrett of Halifax needs the Internet for medical reasons.
“I would be able to keep up with medical research for my conditions,” she said in her written testimony. “Also, to check on the types of drugs and their side effects.”
The group is asking for basic Internet to drop in price to $10 per month. Both Eastlink and Bell offer basic Internet package at $45 a month for the first few months, then increasing to $74.95 a month and $69.45 a month, respectively.
“For people who are on income assistance, there’s no budget for Internet access and home phone,” said Brigley.
On July 7, Eastlink announced a plan to cap its rural Nova Scotia broadband Internet packages at 15 gigabytes per month. Every gigabyte over the cap will result in a $2 fee, up to a maximum of $20 extra each month.
“It’s very insane because people have trouble paying (their bill) as it is,” said Brigley.
The Internet is now considered a necessity by many. In June, the United States Federal Communications Commission proposed to modernize its Lifeline program to include subsidized broadband access in a move to recognize high-speed Internet as a key to pulling low-income families out of poverty.
In 2010, OpenMedia, a group advocating for better Internet in Canada, said the country ranked third-last in the developed world for Internet pricing, ahead of Luxembourg and Turkey.
Article by Ben Cousins for the Chronicle Herald

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