Innovation, Science and Economic Development Minister, Navdeep Bains, announced at the close of the Canadian Telecom Summit, a new government program to assist low-income families.
Called the Connecting Families initiative, the program will over $10 per month broadband Internet to eligible low-income families, starting this year. The government will invest $13.2 million over five years, which will also help distribute up to 50,000 computers to eligible households, via the Computers for Schools program.
The federal government said in a statement, “These efforts will ensure that more Canadian families and youth have access to the valuable resources available on the Internet and give them access to the tools they need to be successful and thrive.”
— ISED (@ISED_CA) June 6, 2018
Consumer Group Critical of New Program
Non-profit consumer group, The Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC), welcomed the new program but criticized it for not including all groups considered low-income, as the program only targets families.
John Lawford, PIAC’s Executive Director and General Counsel, said “This is half a loaf offered to only some low-income Canadians and not to others. While better than nothing, this ‘political solution’ is the direct result of the CRTC refusing to create a fair and equitable subsidy to support affordable Internet for all low-income Canadians.”
Lawford says the Connecting Families program has only voluntary participation from Bell, Cogeco, Rogers, SaskTel, Shaw, Telus and Videotron, with no regulatory requirement for them to continue beyond public commitments to 2022. PIAC also says the program lacks any guarantee service would be offered to low-income Canadians without children under 18.
Last year, the PIAC asked the CRTC to reconsider its affordability subsidy to offer equal broadband and telecommunications access for all lower-income Canadians, but was recently denied.