National coalition calls for universal affordable Internet access
COVID-19 highlights the need for governments to act urgently to provide high-speed Internet to every household in Canada
May 14, 2020— A group of civil society organizations, businesses, and academics has launched the Get Canada Connected coalition, a call to action to all levels of government to commit the necessary resources to connect every household across Canada as soon as possible.
Millions of people across the country, especially in rural, remote, indigenous and low income communities, have no access to high-speed Internet. This lack of access is putting students, workers and vulnerable people at a serious disadvantage in the modern economy, a reality that has become even more pronounced during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Unfortunately, due to decades of underinvestment and neglect, many of our communities have such poor Internet connection they’re being effectively left behind during this pandemic. And without government action, that divide is going to continue long after this is over,” said Laura Tribe, executive director of OpenMedia, one of the members of the Get Canada Connected coalition. “We can’t wait until 2030. The Internet is essential to our everyday life. Our communities deserve affordable, high-speed, reliable Internet – and they need it now.”
According to the Canadian Radio-Television Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), over 11% of households across Canada do not have home Internet, and close to 60% of rural communities do not have access to Internet that meets the CRTC's basic service objective speeds of 50/10mbps. This digital divide is only exacerbated during this pandemic, without access to public Internet points that may otherwise be available, like libraries, or schools.
The coalition members affirm, “Every person in Canada must have affordable high speed access to the Internet. All levels of government must immediately take steps far above and beyond their current commitments to get everyone online as soon as possible and mend Canada’s digital divide.”
The pandemic has not just shone a spotlight on the growing digital divide in Canada, but it has also opened up an opportunity to tackle this problem outright. Never before has the divide been so stark, with many health and education services now available exclusively online – and never before has the government been searching aggressively for more ways to support our communities during a crisis. A plan to connect every household across the country can and should be part of the economic recovery, and would make our communities more resilient to future crises.
“Life in Canada now requires access to the internet for anything and everything.” said Marva Burnett, President ACORN Canada. “Not only is it essential for online education, but low and moderate income people need it equally to stay connected with their families & friends, stay updated and informed, buy groceries, research and receive government benefits, access their bank accounts and much more! For these reasons we need the government to make high speed internet accessible and affordable to all people in Canada.”
Barb Carra, the President and CEO of Cybera said, "Canadians today gather online to work, share and gather essential information, and access vital health and public services. This speaks to the lifeline that the internet can be — for those who have access. In Alberta, we see many students, workers, and residents struggling to keep up, with no viable solutions. Internet needs to be a basic right for all Canadians, with telcos and government both investing in connectivity to the most remote regions of the country.”
About the Get Canada Connected Coalition
The Get Canada Connected coalition is made up of organizations, businesses and experts concerned by the depth of Canada’s digital divide. Each member of the coalition has endorsed its declaration:
“Every person in Canada must have affordable high speed access to the Internet. All levels of government must immediately take steps far above and beyond their current commitments to get everyone online as soon as possible and mend Canada’s digital divide.”
The members of the coalition include:
Digital Justice Lab
First Nations Tech Council
Canadian Civil Liberties Association
Code for Canada
Organizations and individuals interested in joining the coalition can do so at: getcanadaconnected.ca