In the News

National Observer: Pandemic-forced home-schooling widens the digital divide

The broadband internet connection in Mikayla Burnett’s Scarborough home struggled to handle the extra load as soon as Ontario schools closed last month due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 18-year-old high school student, her brother and two cousins who live with them all need to use it to keep up with their studies, but the increased demand has meant the service — which combined with a landline phone costs the family $150 a month — has slowed to a crawl.

“If I was sitting in my room, I couldn’t hand in assignments. It would be loading for 20 minutes — it would take forever to load a page,” she said.

“I had to use my own (mobile) data, which affected me later on because it ran out.”

Medium: In light of Covid-19, maybe it’s time we revisit the debate around the internet as a human right

If there’s one thing this crisis has made abundantly clear, it’s this: the internet is no longer a luxury, it’s now a necessity. We’re turning to the internet in record numbers to work, teach our kids, and inform ourselves of the latest public health news. It’s also helped make this whole thing just a bit more bearable. Whether it’s catching up with our friends over Facetime or easing our mind with the latest Netflix sensation, the internet has helped us maintain our collective sanity.

Unfortunately, for far too many Canadians, internet accessibility is still an issue. This is especially true for low-income Canadians and rural Canadians.

The Local: Monday in Lockdown, Without Wi‑Fi

To access the Facebook mommy groups she uses to find support and resources for her two children, Tammara Tucker has to hop on Wi-Fi wherever she can get it. “I usually try to find spots around my building,” the 33-year-old mom says over the phone from her Long Branch apartment. “But we’re not supposed to be out doing that. It has been a month of complete uncertainty.”

Tucker doesn’t have a data plan on her phone, which makes communicating difficult. “Most people don’t want to talk on the phone, they like to use Facebook Messenger,” she says. Prior to the provincial state of emergency, Tucker could access free Wi-Fi via her smartphone at the library or Tim Horton’s. As of Monday, the city had been shut down for a month, leaving Tucker and her kids—aged 13 and seven-months—without a reliable internet connection. “It’s shattering to realize you can’t provide in the way you used to,” she says. “There are so many resources that are online.”

CBC: 'Internet is the only lifeline they have': Canada needs to confront 'digital divide' amid COVID-19 crisis Social Sharing

The COVID-19 pandemic is forcing Canada to confront many of its hidden social inequalities, one of these being unequal access to the internet, an internet freedom advocate says.

Laura Tribe, executive director of OpenMedia, says disproportionate access to the internet is often talked about in terms of only affecting the North or remote communities, however, the current public health crisis has shown the problem is just as common in many cities.

"There are so many people throughout the country — even in urban areas — that don't have the internet at home, [who] are reliant on schools, libraries, Wi-Fi hotspots at coffee shops like Tim Hortons, [all] trying to figure out how to make it work," Tribe told Spark's Nora Young.

"When something like the COVID-19 pandemic hits, we really see what happens when you don't prioritize it. We see how far people are being left behind."

Tricity News: Advocates say Canada's telecom prices still too high for low income consumers

GATINEAU, Que. — An advocate for low income consumers told a CRTC hearing Tuesday that Canada's telecom companies are using "magic math" that exaggerates how much their mobile data prices have dropped in recent years.

Speaking for the Coalition for Cheaper Wireless Service, John Lawford disputed Bell Canada's estimate that its prices have fallen between 37 per cent and 80 per cent in recent years.