Straight.com: ACORN Canada demands $10 a month Internet access for the poor
Posted January 8, 2014
Social justice activists want Internet service providers and the federal government to reduce the digital divide in the home.
Rachel Goodine believes that all Canadians deserve the right to access the Internet at home.
Many poor people can’t afford broadband Internet service plans, which further disadvantages them in society, according to the Surrey resident.
“I think it can really lower people’s opportunities, in terms of employment and academic success,” Goodine, a member of ACORN Canada, told the Georgia Straight by phone. “So, when you’re already a low-income person, your opportunities are lower than the rest of the folks. It’s just one more barrier.”
For several months, ACORN has been campaigning for $10 a month Internet service plans for households earning $30,000 or less a year. The national organization claims tens of thousands of members—all low- and moderate-income people—across the country.
On Thursday (January 9) at 12:30 p.m., ACORN will hold a rally outside the offices of Shaw Communications in downtown Vancouver. During the protest at Shaw Tower (1067 West Cordova Street), members will carry signs, hand out leaflets, and attempt to deliver a letter to company officials.
Shaw’s Internet plans start at a regular rate of $55 a month for a download speed of up to 10 megabits per second and an upload speed of 512 kilobits per second. A company representative didn’t provide a comment for this story by deadline.
Goodine noted ACORN has already approached other telecom companies, including the Big Three—Bell, Rogers, and Telus—with their proposal. However, despite some “positive” responses, no company has announced such a plan.
According to Statistics Canada, 58 percent of households with annual incomes of $30,000 or less had home Internet access in 2012, meaning 42 percent lacked such access.
Goodine asserted that high-speed Internet access at home has become a “necessity in life”, as it’s needed to find employment, do school work, and download government forms. As well, it helps people participate in democracy, she noted.
“I think it helps marginalized people get their voices out and makes the world a more democratic place,” Goodine said.
In December, ACORN members protested at the Port Moody and Ottawa offices of Minister of Industry James Moore, seeking the government’s support for a $10 a month Internet plan.
“We feel that these companies could afford to just offer it at $10,” Goodine said. “The reason we’ve approached the government is, you know, if these companies aren’t willing to do this, perhaps the CRTC [Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission] could jump in and regulate prices for low-income people.”
According to Goodine, people can get involved with the campaign by showing up at the rally or attending a local ACORN meeting.