Internet for good

TELUS has launched Internet for Good, providing low-cost internet to low income single-parent families in British Columbia. The pilot program targets households on income or disability assistance from the province.

In the coming weeks, about 18,000 single-parent families in BC will receive a coupon code in the mail that will allow them to activate internet service for $9.95 a month, with speeds of up to 25 megabits per second, with 300 GB of data. This pilot program is funded entirely by TELUS, at no cost to the government or to taxpayers.

Program participants will have access to TELUS WISE, an initiative launched just over 3 years ago to educate Canadians about Internet safety, equipping families with tools to have conversations with their children about online and smartphone safety.

TELUS is collaborating with BC Technology for Learning Society and Decoda Literacy so that families who participate in the program are equipped to access the wealth of internet resources. Through the BC Technology for Learning Society, families who cannot afford a computer will have the opportunity to purchase a refurbished desktop computer or laptop at a greatly reduced rate, and Decoda Literacy will help interested program participants enhance their digital literacy skills.

Internet for Good is a complete package: dramatic price savings on broadband internet access; low cost devices; and, training on how to make use of the internet, including safety.

As my frequent readers know, more than half of Canadian households with incomes below $30,000 don’t have home internet. Of these, 44 per cent cite cost, lack of a connected device and digital illiteracy as the barriers to their connectivity. Internet for Good joins Rogers’ Connected for Success program in trying to encourage increased adoption among disadvantaged households.

TELUS is currently working with the Alberta government, intending to expand Internet for Good before the end of the year. To get more information about Internet for Good, including details about how to qualify for the pilot program, the TELUS website has additional details.

Among the challenges for developing offers to target low income households is how to identify them. That is why Rogers launched its program for residents Toronto Community Housing, and recently expanded it to Rogers entire cable foot print in Ontario, New Brunswick and Newfoundland & Labrador, for any household living in rent-geared-to-income non-profit housing. In the case of TELUS Internet for Good, the Government of British Columbia is sending a mail-out to eligible single parents on income or disability assistance informing them about the pilot program; no personal information has been shared with TELUS.

Hopefully, other carriers will continue to develop similar programs to increase adoption in low income households across the country, one province at a time.

If only we had a national digital strategy.

[Update: November 24, 2016] TELUS has now launched Internet for Good in Alberta as well, targeting approximately 15,000 single parent families who receive financial support through the Alberta Works Income Support and Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped programs. Like the BC program, this pilot is entirely funded by TELUS and comes at no cost to taxpayers or the government.

Participants will have access to up to 25 Mbps download speeds and 350GB of data per month. Through Alberta Computers for Schools (ACFS), families who cannot afford a computer will be able to purchase a low-cost refurbished desktop or laptop computer. Since 2013, ACFS has helped place 23,500 refurbished computers into schools and non-profit organizations across Alberta including close to 3,000 devices provided by TELUS. TELUS is partnering with the Alberta Library for free digital literacy resources, such as online learning programs, are made available to pilot participants.

These programs are an industry led solution to fill a significant gap in public policy. It is gratifying to see. As TELUS CEO Darren Entwistle said in his remarks in Edmonton launching the Alberta program, we have a moral obligation to find a solution to get broadband to disadvantaged households.

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