Mississauga.com: Internet and cellphone affordability on the ballot for Mississauga–Malton voters

Residents in Mississauga–Malton say they’re paying too much for internet and cellphone service.

This election, it’s one of the major issues they’re thinking about when they cast their ballot. The riding’s 118,000 residents are diverse, they’re different ages, they work different jobs, but the common thread for all of them is the cost of internet and cellphone service.

In many cases, it’s become an affordability issue where families are forced to cut other costs from their budget to make room.

Lisa Brown, who lives on Darcel Avenue in Malton, said a lot of people in her apartment building rely on internet and cellphones for their day-to-day lives, including for homework, banking and other needs.

“I’ve spent thousands of dollars on internet and phone service,” Brown said. “I had to tell my daughter to choose one or the other when I couldn’t afford it.

“Even when I could afford it, it was too much, and I refused to pay,” she added.

Another resident from Malton, Garfinia Barrett, said she’s constantly inundated with hidden fees and overage charges — despite requesting from her cellphone provider to cap her data.

“The price keeps going up, almost $60, and that’s just a basic plan,” she said. “Sometimes you get your bill and it’s even higher.”

Barrett has had to cut her cellphone service at times. She’s received a subsidized internet plan, but says the speed is much slower than a basic internet plan.

A recent report by ACORN Canada found that 88 per cent of low-income Canadians surveyed said internet services are too costly. Respondents added they used internet for their children’s homework, applying for jobs, online banking, accessing government services, filing taxes and connecting with friends and family.

While canvassing in the neighbourhood, candidates for Mississauga–Malton said it’s a topic that frequently comes up, and offer solutions to the common challenge for residents.

“We pay some of the highest prices among G7 countries,” Liberal candidate Navdeep Bains said. “That’s why we’ve committed a platform to reduce cellphone bills by 25 per cent.”

Under the Liberal plan, the government would promote competition in the telecom market, add more investment in network operators, and introduce a new policy directive for the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) to “put consumers first and focus on affordability,” Bains added.

“It’s no longer a luxury,” he said of the internet, saying the party will work with telecom companies to create solutions for cheaper internet.

Currently, families that receive a maximum amount from the Canada Child Benefit are identified to be eligible for a $10 internet plan.

“It’s all part of our affordability agenda, and a key part of our digital infrastructure, to make sure kids get these opportunities,” Bains said.

NDP candidate Nikki Clarke says the NDP will introduce price caps for internet, lowering costs by $10 per bill.

“In addition, we would like to provide better basic plans with better access for all Canadians and eliminate data caps for internet usage,” she added.

The NDP also plans to introduce a “Telecom Consumers’ Bill of Rights,” Clarke said.

Conservative candidate Tom Varughese did not respond to a request for comment.

Article by Ali Raza for Mississauga.com

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