Today’s CRTC Broadband Report confirms that we are overdue in turning our attention to broadband adoption.
We have spent hundreds of millions of dollars to stimulate the extension of networks to rural and remote markets, but that has reached a point of diminishing returns. The Report shows that we spent $225M to subsidize the reach of networks to 214,000 potential customers – roughly $1500 per broadband subscriber, assuming adoption at the national rates.
As I have written before, Montreal has 300,000 households that don’t have a computer. Toronto has 225,000 households with no computer. Vancouver has 100,000 households with no computer. Where there is no computer in the household, it is unlikely that there will be a broadband connection. It is little surprise that household computer ownership is correlated with income.
The Broadband report also shows a disparity in internet use by age and language. While 97% of Francophones aged 18-34 are on-line, apparently they aren’t showing their parents or grandparents why they should be; only 63% of Francophones over the age of 50 are using the internet, contrasted with 74% of anglophones in the same age group.
It is time for a digital strategy that promotes digital literacy and leads to computers getting into Canada’s low income households. We have the plumbing in place: we need to lead more Canadians to the well and teach them how to drink.