Canada still silent on low income broadband

Yesterday, US President Obama unveiled ConnectHome, a new initiative to bring Internet connections to low-income households, targeting students living in public and assisted housing.

A new analysis by the US Council of Economic Advisors shows a strong correlation between household income and internet use, a relationship that I discussed more than 4 years ago.

As the White House background paper says, students in low-income households risk a widening “homework-gap”:

While many middle-class U.S. students go home to Internet access, allowing them to do research, write papers, and communicate digitally with their teachers and other students, too many lower-income children go unplugged every afternoon when school ends. This “homework gap” runs the risk of widening the achievement gap, denying hardworking students the benefit of a technology-enriched education.

Industry Minister James Moore issued an update on its Digital Canada 150 “digital strategy” that still doesn’t address the need to increase adoption of digital technologies among Canada’s lowest income households.

As part of its submission to the CRTC’s “Review of basic telecommunications” proceeding, the Affordable Access Coalition has put forward an “Affordability proposal”, to “provide low-income Canadians with a monthly subsidy to use on the telecommunications service of their choice (broadband, home phone or cellphone service) and from the service provider of their choice.”

As Rogers has demonstrated with its Connected for Success program, the private sector in Canada can be a partner in delivering a solution for many low-income households. A story in the Globe and Mail indicated that Rogers is currently providing 7000 households in Toronto Community Housing with service for just $9.99 per month.

It is gratifying to see the issue brought forward by the Affordable Access coalition.

How will industry and government policy makers respond?

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