Many of us have the Internet in our pocket; an instant connection to news, email and, during an emergency, information that can even save lives.
For others, the Internet is a distant concept. And not just in Third World countries - here in Ottawa too.
The cost of an Internet connection is more than some people can afford, despite the fact that highspeed connections are literally at their front door. Information is power, as well as a key element of a modern education. Without a decent connection to the worldwide web, people who are already behind the rest of Canadian society are destined to fall further behind.
The children in homes without a fast connection are destined to fall behind their peers. It seems less likely they will get a chance to excel at school and beyond, which equals a massive waste of potential.
A low-income advocacy group organized a march on April 17 to draw attention to the high cost of highspeed, a price tag that puts the Information Highway out of reach for many Canadians. The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now is calling for high-speed Internet to be made available to Canadians for $10 a month. Given that the federal government regulates our telephone service, a more affordable Internet is within reach if Parliament feels it is important.
We pay taxes so that our libraries can share information with all residents. Why not a Canadian system to share the Internet with all Canadians? For this tech-savvy nation, it's within our control to make it happen. The federal government has made rural high-speed Internet a priority, which is commendable. That doesn't mean urban users - with high-speed connections available - should be forgotten.
Internet access should be treated the same as basic phone service, with controlled rates so low-income families can get connected. Ottawa libraries provide Internet access - when they are open and if there is no lineup of other customers - but that's not the same as having information on your kitchen table. Low-speed, dial-up connections are still available - with a phone line - but that's not a good way to research material on today's image-heavy websites.
ACORN has the right idea. Every Canadian should have high-speed access. And if their current finances mean they can't afford it, rates should be controlled. If Internet service providers won't or can't make the cost affordable, it's up to all of us - through our federal government - to help offset costs so we're all on an equal footing.
Editorial for Ottawa East News