ACORN Canada demands $10 a month Internet access for the poor

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      Rachel Goodine believes that all Canadians deserve the right to access the Internet at home.

      Many poor people can’t afford broadband Internet service plans, which further disadvantages them in society, according to the Surrey resident.

      “I think it can really lower people’s opportunities, in terms of employment and academic success,” Goodine, a member of ACORN Canada, told the Georgia Straight by phone. “So, when you’re already a low-income person, your opportunities are lower than the rest of the folks. It’s just one more barrier.”

      For several months, ACORN has been campaigning for $10 a month Internet service plans for households earning $30,000 or less a year. The national organization claims tens of thousands of members—all low- and moderate-income people—across the country.

      On Thursday (January 9) at 12:30 p.m., ACORN will hold a rally outside the offices of Shaw Communications in downtown Vancouver. During the protest at Shaw Tower (1067 West Cordova Street), members will carry signs, hand out leaflets, and attempt to deliver a letter to company officials.

      Shaw’s Internet plans start at a regular rate of $55 a month for a download speed of up to 10 megabits per second and an upload speed of 512 kilobits per second. A company representative didn’t provide a comment for this story by deadline.

      Goodine noted ACORN has already approached other telecom companies, including the Big Three—Bell, Rogers, and Telus—with their proposal. However, despite some “positive” responses, no company has announced such a plan.

      According to Statistics Canada, 58 percent of households with annual incomes of $30,000 or less had home Internet access in 2012, meaning 42 percent lacked such access.

      Goodine asserted that high-speed Internet access at home has become a “necessity in life”, as it’s needed to find employment, do school work, and download government forms. As well, it helps people participate in democracy, she noted.

      “I think it helps marginalized people get their voices out and makes the world a more democratic place,” Goodine said.

      In December, ACORN members protested at the Port Moody and Ottawa offices of Minister of Industry James Moore, seeking the government’s support for a $10 a month Internet plan.

      “We feel that these companies could afford to just offer it at $10,” Goodine said. “The reason we’ve approached the government is, you know, if these companies aren’t willing to do this, perhaps the CRTC [Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission] could jump in and regulate prices for low-income people.”

      According to Goodine, people can get involved with the campaign by showing up at the rally or attending a local ACORN meeting.




      Jan 8, 2014 at 2:21pm

      Librairies, seniors centres, schools, job finding centres, some community services/centres etc. have computers for people.
      These computers appear to be well used.
      I know it's not the same as having internet at home.

      Unfortunately having internet at home means you need to have a computer, room for it, sometimes a phone line and a secure, safe place to live. A lot of the poor do not have this.
      It's a bigger problem than just lower rates.

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      Jan 8, 2014 at 3:46pm

      Aside from the fact that internet plans are WAY too expensive in general, offering $10 plans to low income families is not the answer.

      People should buy what they can afford - I cannot afford a large house, therefore I do not own one. I don't expect anyone to subsidize it, it's my responsibility to either save up for one, or live within my means. Too many people feel entitled to non-necessities. Like a previous poster mentioned, there are libraries and other community centers with access to internet.

      Plus, all I see are people abusing this by finding loopholes, thus shifting the cost burden onto everyone else.

      If you cannot afford something non-essential to survival, don't buy it.

      Rick in Richmond

      Jan 8, 2014 at 4:49pm

      This idea is well-meant but ill-conceived.

      Public libraries everywhere offer free computer and internet access. Public library cards are also free. Most libraries are open 8 to 12 hours a day. They are extremely easy to access.

      Ms Goodine proposes a means test, whereby "the poor" will have to demonstrate to Shaw's satisfaction that they are eligible for this discount. How will that work? How will administer it? Will there be a right of appeal? And how much will this new bureaucracy cost?

      If she wants Shaw to provide discounted Internet access, does she also want Apple to provide discounted iPads?

      Well meant. Ill conceived. And not remotely practical. We already provide one of the best library services in the world. The DTES has its very own branch, at Carnegie. There is no need to keep reinventing wheels that already turn very nicely.


      Jan 8, 2014 at 5:01pm

      Going to the telecoms with cap in hand is not the solution for getting internet access to low income households. Businesses are in business to make money. Period. Instead, ACORN should lobby the government for tax breaks on internet subscriptions for low income people.

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      Jan 8, 2014 at 5:29pm

      Maybe before less expensive internet is offered to those with access to high speed internet, more services should be offered to those that the only choice is dialup internet service. At 28.8kbps maximum speed many sites today are not accessible. The local library offers access but only for 30 minutes and then you must wait 24 hours to access it again. Not very convenient, especially when having to travel great distances just to get to the library. If governments at all levels want the citizens to use the internet soley to access services they must provide reliable, reasonably priced high speed access to all Canadians, not just those in urban settings. The rural areas are being threatened by Canada Post to remove post offices, Greyhound has cut their bus services drastically and we encounter more obstacles daily that make our lives more cumbersome. We cannot all move to urban area, someone has to process the natural resources that are in the rural areas. Out of sight and out of mind is the mantra of the Provincial and Federal governments and it is getting worse. Our town does not even get any services anymore. In 30 years what we had has all gone and we are required to travel great distances on lousy highways to wait, wait and wait some more. We have an up to date computer and laptop but cannot access services to utilize their maximum capabilities. High Speed Internet Service should be offered to all Canadians and then there should be some type of program to help others access with recycled used computers etc. at a reasonable price.

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      Alan Layton

      Jan 8, 2014 at 9:17pm

      I totally agree with this and I'd be happy to pay more taxes to make it happen.

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      Jan 9, 2014 at 3:22am

      “I think it helps marginalized people get their voices out and makes the world a more democratic place,”

      Moreover it gives a false impression of the public to those on the internet. If it's only the wealthy and the middle classes chatting among themselves then it becomes fairly easy to convince oneself that the opinions they express are common to all people.

      I am thinking that is why especially in this province voter turnout might have something to do with the conspiracy of the two wings of the same party promising to save the middle classes...which goes back in the modern era to Thatcher and Reagan.

      When the politicians have just told you that they fully intend, in a representative democracy, is to ONLY represent the aspirations of the middle classes, then there is virtually no incentive for the poor and the working classes to bother to vote. Of course if it is only middle classes represented on the emerging social networks, then such a course of policy appears popular.

      Here's an idea that is sure to win the hearts of the middle classes.
      In the last century the prime means of mass communication was radio and then television. Both of which are declined. In this century, the emerging means of mass communication is the internet. How about we scrape the relic of the last century, the CBC, and use that money to build a national fully accessible internet for everyone.

      After all, when the CBC was conceived, as was all of those national broadcasters, the whole idea was to include EVERYONE to inspire our democracy, build a sense of nationhood and educate the everyone with the important news of the day.

      So what's changed?


      Jan 9, 2014 at 6:31am

      I grew up in poverty, so I understand and appreciate want. And this is a 'want' over need. You don't need the Internet (which also requires the expense of a computer plus continual costly upgrades) when there are public libraries and other tax funded resources that allow access.

      Stay in school. Work hard. That 'want' can be the carrot that digs you out. I know. I was there.

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      No way

      Jan 9, 2014 at 9:36am

      Where exactly does the list stop on what society needs to provide people who want more. Make no mistake that internet access at home is a want, not a need.

      Its getting out of control with what people feel they deserve. Housing in the downtown area of the most expensive city in the north america. Thats a want, not a need. Internet, housing, food, safe injection sites etc etc Just wait in time there will be a group asking for free bikes, or discounts on cars and gas for the low income. The entitlement is shocking. Look around you for fuck sake. Right now somewhere in the world a woman is giving birth to a baby on a bed of leaves. They have to walk hours each day just to get fresh water. THOSE people need our help. Not people living here who have every opportunity to thrive, but instead chose not to.

      Lets get real and stop discriminating against others. The sooner we really start seeing every human as being the same the sooner we will realize the people with the hand out in Vancouver and the people in this world that truly need help. Fact is they have a lot more then others, and our extra resources should be about providing needs to me people, not wants. There are children living in garbage dumps their whole lives in parts of this work for christ sake.

      Ill see it before I die that someone puts their hand up for free lift tickets at whistler because they cant afford it.

      The entitlement in this city makes me sick.

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      Jwo Lu

      Jan 9, 2014 at 9:49am

      For school and job reasons people can use the coffee shops, libraries or community centres. Any longer you are just surfing, watching TV, commenting on articles and Facebooking. With all this free access the rest is not a necessity. Wilkipedia is not the only source for information for school projects. In fact internet information is rot with mis information and the distractions are a multiplying factor of bad study habits. Books are more legitimate and your focus stays on page. One thing that would be good to provide low income people is low cost printing. (I've spent a pretty penny on printing at the library.) FYI in a pinch I've stood outside a library with my computer and sent an email after hours. (they don't turn off the wifi.)
      On top of it you need a home to plug a computer into with a bill for electricity (which would increase cause of running a computer). It seems like people are not really thinking this one through let's give them something they can't even access cause two of the main things needed to access internet aren't even provided. Let's focus on permanent housing and food. If you want to improve the lives of low income people ask the libraries to get more computers and connections cause that would be the best way to provide internet access to people that have no more money to spend on other luxuries. At least they would have everything they need to get on the internet like a computer and electricity to run it.
      If Shaw's PRs are smart the would make a large donation to the libraries for increased or new internet connections and whole bunch of free computers. At least they would be making a difference then. They should not lower their fees to encourage frivolous spending.