Mark Goldberg

Fox Group Dispatch

Canada’s #HomeworkGap continues

This week, kids across Canada will say goodbye to teachers for their summer break from school. No more pencils, no more books…

For too many kids, pencils and books continue to be the basic tools for completing homework, which seems somewhat anachronistic in a country promoting a national innovation agenda. Too many Canadian households don’t have a computer, let a lone a broadband connection.

I know that the first “Back to School” promotions are still about a month away, but I continue to be troubled by the number of school kids who won’t have access to the digital tool set they need to do homework when they return to classrooms in the fall.

In BC and Alberta, TELUS offers its Internet for Good service; in Ontario, New Brunswick and Newfoundland & Labrador, Rogers offers Connect for Success. Both programs provide qualified disadvantaged households with access to broadband service for $10 per month and both service providers help get a low cost computer and training resources for the household. As Innovation, Science and Economic Development (ISED) Minister Bains acknowledged in his remarks at The Canadian Telecom Summit three weeks ago, TELUS and Rogers deserve recognition for launching these initiatives over the past couple years. These were private sector ventures, launched without government prodding, because management at the companies agreed it was the right thing to do.

But what about Saskatchewan? Manitoba? Quebec? Nova Scotia? PEI? Hundreds of thousands of households in those five provinces have physical access to broadband available, but aren’t able to get online. Indeed, according to the CRTC, these provinces have the lowest rates of broadband adoption in Canada.

Try to imagine how a kid can do homework today without a connected computer at home. I have said it too many times: Affordable broadband isn’t just a rural issue. How can we continue to ignore the households in our urban centres while the CRTC effectively duplicates ISED funding programs for rural broadband expansion? Where is the leadership?

Before the summer is out, will at least one service provider in each province take on the challenge – the responsibility – of helping to bring connected computers into the home of every school kid?

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