‘Connecting Families’ is the very least big telecom could do
Low-income affordability plan is a welcome step forward, but leaves too many homes behind.
Today, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, Navdeep Bains announced the government’s ‘Connected Families’ initiative to bring affordable Internet to eligible participants in his keynote address to the 2018 Canadian Telecom Summit in Toronto.
The Connecting Families initiative is a welcome step forward, but does not go far enough to address a widening digital divide in Canada. Even by the governments own standards, today’s proposal is inadequate. After the basic services proceeding in December of 2016, the government ruled that high speed Internet with a connection speed of 50 Mbps (five times as fast as the 10 Mbps the Minister announced today) must be available to everyone in Canada.
This is overdue and welcome relief for the families that will benefit from the scheme the Minister announced. Access to the Internet is essential, for education, health and work, to obtain services and to socialize. But it leaves many more people behind than it benefits. The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) Communications Monitoring Report 2017 indicates that almost 3 million households in Canada struggle to afford Internet services.
Any improvement to Internet affordability is progress, but we urgently need a comprehensive National Broadband Strategy to deliver these services thoroughly and to everyone across the country. Millions of households that do not meet the eligibility requirements to the Connecting Families initiative but nevertheless battle day to day to afford their necessities, will be left behind. Any time giant telecom companies all agree on something, you know that somewhere somebody is losing out. In this case, it is the millions of seniors, students, singles and other low income earners in Canada this proposal won’t help. No doubt the telecom companies jumped at this opportunity to delay attempts at regulation and score a PR victory in the process, while offering minimal support to a fraction of the people that urgently need affordable Internet services.
The cost of Internet services in Canada is rising considerably faster than inflation — meaning more and more of the household budget is being consumed paying for services the government itself describes as essential.
People in Canada are demanding a National Broadband Strategy at: https://act.openmedia.org/broadband-plan