In the News

Canadian Consumers demand $50 broadband benefit during COVID, like in U.S.

OTTAWA – 12 January 2021 – Consumer, seniors and low-income groups today demanded the Canadian federal government create a $50 a month “Canadian Broadband Benefit” (CBB) during the remainder of the COVID-19 emergency. This payment would simply reduce internet bills by $50 a month for low-income Canadians, seniors on fixed incomes and for those Canadians qualifying for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit due to reduced income. The Canadian Broadband Benefit would largely parallel the $USD 50 benefit recently approved in Congress for needy Americans in the United States.

The groups include ACORN Canada (ACORN), the National Pensioners Federation (NPF) and the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC). Together the groups represent over a million Canadians and advocate for many more who are similarly situated.

Toronto Star OPINION: Digital development is the most important funding need you’ve never heard of

Whether it’s businesses shifting operations online, employees working from home or children attending school virtually, COVID-19 has shone a light on the importance of making sure all Canadians have high-quality internet access.

The pandemic has also highlighted critical shortfalls in our ability to manage this dramatic shift – particularly when it comes to funding for internet-related projects. Canada’s “digital development” is the most important philanthropic effort most people have never heard of, and it is facing major challenges.

While the Trudeau government just announced $1.75 billion to bring high-speed internet to Canada’s unconnected, much of Canada’s digital development happens through community groups – and it’s here where the funding challenge is greatest.

Toronto Star: Five reasons Trudeau’s ‘universal’ broadband plan is not, in fact, universal

Earlier this week, the Trudeau government announced an update to its plan to connect all Canadians to high-speed internet.

Originally included in the 2019 budget, the government has increased the spending pledge to $1.75 billion for its Universal Broadband Fund and moved the timeline up with the goal of reaching 98 per cent of Canadians by 2026.

It’s a noble effort, but advocates who have long been working on improving the access to and quality of the internet in Canada have questions — and concerns — about the best way forward:

This won’t do much for urban low-income Canadians: The idea is that better infrastructure and more choices for providers will bring costs down, but the plan still doesn’t directly address the issue of affordability for individuals, which is what has kept Canadians such as Ottawa resident Ray Noyes offline.

 

Now Magazine: Toronto’s digital divide is leaving many people disconnected

Sheila Prospere has an internet problem. 
 
“The internet is way too expensive,” she says. “And I can’t really live without it.”
 
Prospere relies on the internet for all sorts of things, including her daughter’s education. As a school bus driver living in community housing in Scarborough, she’s seen students appear and disappear as they switch from in-person to online learning. “Like a merry-go-round,” she says.
 
When it came to her own 10-year-old daughter, the choice between in-person and online school was easy: she sent her to school. Her internet plan from Altima Telecom is too slow to handle the rigours of online education. She learned that back in March when the COVID-19 shutdown forced students across the province to finish the school year from home. 
 
“The connection was very poor,” she says, remembering the times she watched her daughter submit an assignment only to get an email the next day from a teacher saying they never received it. “We had all sorts of problems.”
 
Her daughter still relies on online communication more than ever: for research and assignments, to communicate with her teachers, to access her online class accounts. 
 
There’s a major disconnect in the city when it comes to online access, and it’s gotten wider in the last seven months. So much of life now – from grocery shopping to banking, education to work conferencing – is happening online. Even things like making appointments for COVID tests and getting exposure alerts are less accessible to people at higher risk.
 

 

Toronto Star: Banks are embracing apps and some restaurants now require a smartphone to enter — so what happens if you don’t have one?

COVID-19 accelerated a change that was already happening: a digital shift by businesses large and small toward e-commerce and using technology for everyday purchases and services.

From scanning a QR code to see the menu at a restaurant, to using an app or website to wait in line for the bank, smartphones are becoming increasingly integrated into our daily lives as businesses adjust to help curb the spread of the pandemic.

But what if you don’t have a smartphone? Or even a mobile phone? Or ready access to the internet?