In the News
Just when Toronto’s low-income residents were counting on the city to create a publicly owned and managed municipal broadband network, the city stepped back from its commitment to ConnectTO.
Despite the city’s recognition in January of the exorbitant prices people face for internet access, the executive committee, chaired by Mayor John Tory, said building a public network would mean duplicating what private telecoms provide and directed Lawrence Eta, the city’s chief technology officer, to report back to the committee in 2023 for a progress update on the ConnectTO program.
Toronto ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) members have been fighting for affordable, high-speed internet since 2013 and wanted the committee to fast-track the move to help bridge the gap in digital equity.
In January of 2021, the city of Toronto announced a sweeping new initiative to improve internet access for its 3 million residents. By building a broadband network owned by the city, the program called ConnectTO would give low-income residents struggling with high prices and slow internet speeds an affordable option. The proposal, received favorably by local community groups and internet-access advocates, was passed by the city council less than a month later in February 2021.
Now, barely a year later, the plan for municipal broadband in Toronto could be on its way out.
Hopes remain alive that the city of Toronto could use its fibre-optic network to help residents get cheaper internet service options — but it would be years away.
Mayor John Tory’s executive committee on Wednesday unanimously endorsed ConnectTO, a plan to boost high-speed connections between city sites, and to see if there is excess broadband capacity that could be put to other uses.
A plan to create a "city-owned high-speed municipal broadband network" that would have made internet access affordable for low-income Torontonians won't be going to council next week after Mayor John Tory's executive committee voted it down on Wednesday.
The committee unanimously approved a revised plan for the city program known as ConnectTO, which will go to council on May 11.
It’s shocking. Two years into a pandemic that forced nearly everything online, most rural and First Nations households still don’t have access to the “basic” internet speed target set by the government. Where there is decent connectivity, many lack the skills they need to thrive online.
In 2022, digital skills and decent connectivity aren’t optional — they’re essential — and those missing either will be left behind. But the Canadian Internet Registration Authority’s (CIRA) new report, Getting Connected: Funders and Digital Equity in Canada, suggests that while Canadian philanthropy is feeling urgency to help tackle the country’s digital inequities, the majority have yet to step up with funding and leadership. Until they do, Canada’s digital divides will continue to slow our progress toward social, racial, and economic justice.