Low-income Canadians sacrifice food for Internet
The majority of Canadians living on low incomes are forced to spend less on food so they can afford high-speed internet access, according to a survey conducted by a national anti-poverty advocate.
That’s why the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now Canada is renewing its call for $10-per-month broadband connections for low-income households as the CRTC continues its review of telecommunication services.
ACORN’s survey found that 71% of respondents — most of whom were ACORN members and fell into the category of low- or middle-income earners — sacrificed money from their food budget to stay online, while nearly two-thirds (64%) had to make cutbacks in spending on entertainment as a result of the cost of internet access.
ACORN’s New Westminster chapter co-chair, Noel Ouellette, is among those who have had cut back on what they spend on food to keep their connection to the web. He said his group is concerned that economically challenged citizens and students will only fall further behind without affordable internet.
“(People) use the internet to look and apply for jobs, and students need to do their homework on computers nowadays,” said Ouellette.
“Spending hours at a library or coffee shop puts low-income (individuals) at a disadvantage.”
With results of the study in hand, local ACORN members rallied Tuesday at CRTC’s downtown Vancouver office to continue their push for affordable internet. Part of the CRTC’s ongoing review includes a look at how basic telecommunications services should be defined, how they should be priced and what role the CRTC has in facilitating their availability to all Canadians.
ACORN points to a model in Toronto where reduced fees for service to households on low incomes. In 2013, Rogers introduced $10-per-month high-speed internet to residents living in Toronto Community Housing in an initiative called Connected for Success.
“Why can’t they move it out here, across Canada, so that everybody can have a go at the internet?” said Ouellette. “That’s our main aim in this campaign that’s been going on for three years now.”