Mark Goldberg

Back to school specials

It is that time of year again.

Staples got in trouble a few years ago when it ran ‘back-to-school commercials with Andy Williams’ version of the Christmas season song “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” as the background music.

It isn’t just stationers who love the season; all kinds of stores appear to be running specials that target the student market. Just last night, I saw ads offering to deliver mattresses to almost any college campus community.

It is a big season for the communications sector as well. Students are getting internet packages and new mobile phone plans and there are lots of deals to be had from the carriers and independent retailers. It is a good time for everyone to shop around. Many of the deals will provide value to any family, especially those who haven’t looked at updating their communications services in a while.

Parents and students alike should take the opportunity to see what deals are available for wireless and wireline services: voice, data and TV. Most of the plans are available to anyone – you don’t have to be a student to save.

If you have young ones getting their first connections, look for tips to keep them safe online. A few years ago, I wrote 10 tips for back-to-school online safety, with a checklist from the TELUS Wise program. That is a good place to start.

Still, it is important to remember that there are still lots of families that can’t afford to get their kids online at prices that most of us consider acceptable. The national Connecting Families program, with its $10 per month broadband service for low income households with school children (announced at The 2018 Canadian Telecom Summit in June) has not yet been rolled out by all of the participating service providers. This will hopefully be fixed later this fall. Many low income families in TELUS and Rogers territories have access to programs previously announced by those companies, but unfortunately, some kids will be starting school in September unequipped to deal with a digital homework gap.

Personally, I have always hated the end of summer. As a kid, I loved summer vacation and the feeling is even stronger today when I have been able to share so much of my summertime with little visitors. Back to school means they head back home to start their own school year. Thankfully, communications technology makes it so much easier to stay in touch, with daily trans-oceanic video chats to bridge the distance.

Enjoy the last few weeks of summer. I am going to be focused on close encounters of a non-electronic kind, enjoying every minute before my visitors fly home to head back to school. For me, these last two weeks are certain to be more special than any of the savings being offered.

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