Metro News: Advocates call on Surrey to extend free Wi-Fi to public housing

For low-income residents who can’t afford smartphones or tablets, Surrey’s plan to provide free Wi-Fi at dozens of hot spots around the city won’t be much help in their search for affordable Internet access.

Advocates from B.C. Acorn are calling on the city to go one step further in its deal with Shaw and install hot spots at public housing sites as well.

“It’s wonderful and great that they’re going to have free Wi-Fi in public locations… it’s a start,” said Tabitha Naismith, chair of Acorn’s Newton chapter.

“But if they’re expecting people to use the Internet on your phone… a lot of people can’t afford to pay for that.”

Naismith, who lives in public housing, and a group of about 15 other low-income advocates took one of their bulky desktop computers to the Shaw office Tuesday to deliver a letter – and a message – that these hot spots would be helpful at social housing sites where people could share computers.

This would be a huge help to single parents and people searching for jobs who live in public housing, Naismith said.

For example, most schools require children to use the Internet for homework, so when parents don’t have access it can be a challenge to take their kids to the library to wait to use a public computer.

B.C. Acorn has also sent a letter to the city and hopes to meet with the new mayor to discuss their proposal.

Surrey announced the proposal in September. Its deal with Shaw allows anyone to use the hot spots as long as they sign up with an email address, which Shaw can use for marketing purposes.


Article by Emily Jackson for Metro News

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