In the News
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.
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.
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.