In the News
Toronto Star: Advocates announce day of action for affordable internet, as Supreme Court delivers defeat to Bell Canada
A coalition of advocates, organizations and researchers is launching a nationwide day of action to demand affordable-internet policies from the federal government.
The online Day of Action for Affordable Internet, March 16, will “demand the immediate implementation of federal measures to deliver affordable internet and wireless services in Canada and to put an end to constantly increasing bills,” according to a press release Thursday.
Rayman Miller lives in the northwest Toronto neighbourhood of Weston, in a tower of rental units off the 401. Since last March, Rayman, who is 21, his mom and his younger siblings have been home for most of the day every day in their three-bedroom apartment. Rayman shares a bedroom with his two brothers, who are 14 and 18. Before the pandemic, their mom, Kaleena, worked at the Wahlburgers at Pearson airport, and Rayman was about to start a job working with kids in an after-school program. Covid left them both unemployed. Rayman is studying at Humber College to be a paralegal and brings in a bit of money selling Amway products and nutritional supplements part time. (Even on the phone, his voice is warm and charming—you would place an order.) Rayman says, jokingly, that his other job is unpaid tutor. He spends his days bouncing between his own online courses and helping his brother Deshawn, who’s in Grade 9, and his sister, Shakera, who’s in Grade 7, with theirs.
Back in the fall, the Millers opted for full-time online learning because going to school in person felt too risky. In October, their neighbourhood had one of the highest Covid rates in the city, with positive tests at 10 per cent. The city’s overall rate at the time was just three per cent.
Toronto Star: Toronto just approved a wild plan to build a public internet network priced lower than Bell or Rogers — will it work?
Maize Blanchard pays Bell Canada $198.76 every month. She can easily tell you the precise figure — slowly emphasizing each number — because she has spent hours on the phone with the company trying to negotiate a lower price for her television and internet service.
Blanchard, who is 69 and lives alone in a one-bedroom apartment on Jane Street north of Finch Avenue West, gets by on a pension from Old Age Security. After paying close to $1,000 in rent, her Bell bill and other fixed expenses, she has about $300 left each month for food, medicine and everything else.
“Sometimes I get some help with groceries, but I didn’t last month. The food bank I volunteer with didn’t get much food,” she said. She’s considering switching to a cheaper internet service, but she relies on the fast connection she has now to stay in touch with her church community during the COVID-19 pandemic, attending meetings and teaching Sunday school over Zoom. “I keep telling Bell, I’m just a pensioner, I can’t continue to pay this amount of money. It’s not feasible.”
Toronto is home to some of Canada’s fastest internet infrastructure, yet there continues to be a digital divide separating those who have access to the internet at home, according to a new report.
Ryerson’s Brookfield Institute for Innovation + Entrepreneurship has found that 38 per cent of Toronto households have experienced download speeds below the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC)’s national target of 50 megabits per second.
With COVID-19 creating an increased dependence on technology, Toronto Mayor John Tory emphasized how important it is that all Toronto residents have reliable internet access.
“Having access to a reliable and affordable internet connection is a lifeline for many residents and businesses in Toronto,” he said. “Without sufficient connectivity, many are left behind by an increasing digital divide – especially during COVID-19, where it has become vital to maintain business operations and access supports and learning.”
Yahoo! Finance: ‘Broadband isn’t a luxury': groups call for internet benefit for low-income households
“The idea of getting internet at home would have been attractive except for the cost,” said Ray Noyes, a 64-year-old man who thinks it’s time the federal government creates a broadband internet benefit.
The Ottawa, Ont.-based man said in an interview that even though he is part of the Ontario Disability Support Program, it doesn’t cover the costs required to pay for internet services.
“With my $1,169, I’ve got to pay over half of that in rent,” he said.
Noyes is also a member of ACORN Canada (an independent national organization of low and moderate-income families), which, in partnership with the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC), and the National Pensioners Federation, are campaigning for a $50 a month Canadian Broadband Benefit.