Low-cost Internet service for tenants in Toronto public housing is being expanded to social housing communities across Ontario, New Brunswick and Newfoundland, the Star has learned.
The $9.99-a-month program offered by Rogers Communications, will be available to more than 150,000 low-income households everywhere the company provides Internet services starting this month.
The telecommunications giant is making the announcement at a non-profit housing building in Ottawa Thursday.
The Connected for Success program began as a pilot project for Toronto Community Housing tenants in 2013 and now serves 11,000 households. Under the expansion, subsidized tenants in another 533 non-profit housing companies will be eligible.
“We’ve had a tremendous response to our pilot project with Toronto Community Housing and are thrilled to expand Connected for Success to our whole cable Internet footprint,” said Deepak Khandelwal, chief customer officer for Rogers.
“From kids connecting after the school day is done to seniors staying in touch with their friends and using banking or government services, Internet access isn’t a ‘nice to have’ — it’s a necessity in our digital world,” he said in a statement.
Scarborough tenant Cyleta Gibson-Sealy, who has been using the service in her apartment-townhouse complex on Birchmount and Finch Aves., since last fall, said the program seemed “too good to be true” when a Rogers representative invited her to apply.
“But I have had no problems. And the bill never goes up. No surprises,” she said in an interview Wednesday.
Gibson-Sealy, who runs a free after-school homework program in her building, said she has been spreading the word about the service because it means children don’t have to go to the library to research assignments.
“For families with lots of kids, they are always going over their limits and parents face huge bills they can’t pay,” she said. “Pretty soon it’s $100, $200 and $300 and the service is cut off. This is something they can afford.”
Since there are no credit checks, tenants in social housing buildings who may have had their Rogers service suspended in the past due to bill non-payment are eligible for the $9.99 monthly program, a company spokeswoman confirmed.
Gibson-Sealy had to give up her own Internet service several years ago because “I was paying more for Internet than for groceries some months.” But since joining the low-cost program, she is able to stay connected through email with the numerous community groups she is involved with.
ACORN Canada, a national organization of low- and moderate-income families, has been urging the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) to mandate a $10-per-month high-speed home Internet product for all families and individuals living below Statistics Canada’s low income measure. In 2013, the LIM was $20,933 for an individual and $41,866 for a family of four, after taxes.
An ACORN survey of 400 members last year found that almost 84 per cent said the cost of Internet services was “extremely expensive” and that almost 59 per cent of those skimped on food, recreation and rent to pay for it.
According to a recent Ipsos-Reid study, 91 per cent of Canadians have home Internet service. But that number drops to 70 per cent for households with an annual income of less than $25,000.
Sharad Kerur of the Ontario Non-Profit Housing Association said he hopes other Internet providers “step in” to serve social housing tenants in areas not served by Rogers.
“Kudos to Rogers for paving the way,” he said. “We hope to see others like Shaw, Cogeco and Bell do something similar.”
Internet 5, Rogers’ low-cost Internet service for anyone in the company’s Internet service area, is available for $24.99 a month.
Subsidized tenants in non-profit housing can call 1-866-689-0758 for more information about Connected for Success.