Metro News Ottawa: Low income advocacy group disappointed with CRTC announcement

Posted December 27, 2016

Canada's telecom regulator has declared broadband internet access a basic service across the country, but local activists say that won’t help low-income residents in Ottawa facing high costs.
On Wednesday, the CRTC announced it aims to to ensure service providers (ISPs) offer internet services at speeds of at least 50 megabits per second for downloading data, and 10 Mbps for uploads.
Currently, about 82 per cent of households and businesses receive that level of service. The CRTC wants that increased to 90 per cent by 2021 and to 100 per cent within 10 to 15 years.
ISPs will also be required to offer unlimited data options for fixed broadband services.
However, unlike the recent CRTC decision to cap the cost of basic TV services, the regulator said it won’t propose a cap on what ISPs can charge customers for basic broadband internet.
That decision disappointed advocacy group ACORN, who had hoped the CRTC decision would mean guaranteed lower prices for basic Internet service.
“We’re kind of disappointed there’s no subsidy program to help low income people to make the Internet affordable,” said Gisele Bouvier, president of the organization’s Vanier chapter.
Bouvier said the infrastructure money announcement will improve service for rural residents, but it doesn’t help urban Canadians who are struggling to afford basic service.
The CRTC’s report to the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development did acknowledge the struggles facing lower-income households, including a EKOS survey that found 36 per cent of respondents are limiting their Internet use due to cost.
The report also noted that the government itself asks Canadians to access services online, yet social assistance doesn’t factor in the cost of broadband connectivity.
Despite the acknowledgement, the commission said in its report that it “supports” the efforts to make broadband more available but didn’t provide any specific suggestions or mandates.
Article by Haley Ritchie for Metro News Ottawa