featured Poverty

Access to high speed internet a basic right, says premier McNeil. What about access to a phone?

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Yesterday premier McNeil announced funding for 22 municipal and community high-speed internet projects in rural Nova Scotia.

“Your provincial government is listening, our municipal partners are listening and entrepreneurs are providing solutions for what is a basic right as Nova Scotians and as Canadians and that is access to high-speed internet,” McNeil is quoted as saying in a story by CBC reporter Paul Withers.

Nothing wrong with that, I’m happy for rural Nova Scotians slowed down by antiquated internet access.

What’s disturbing though is that the government considers access to high speed internet a basic right, while many people in Nova Scotia who live in dire poverty don’t have access to a phone.

People on social assistance are scraping by on shelter and living allowances that are entirely inadequate. Telephone is paid for only in those cases where the Department of Community Services believes it to be a necessity for medical or personal safety-related reasons.

Only one in five people on social assistance has their phone paid for by Community Services, according to a  recent departmental presentation.

And even then, in the spirit of penny-pinching austerity, “connection charges and deposits will not normally be paid by the Department,” the policy manual states.

Without a phone (and without a car, without a computer, let alone internet access), poor people especially in rural Nova Scotia are condemned to lives of heart-wrenching isolation, unable to hear from relatives and loved ones. And unable to do things most Nova Scotians take for granted, like making a doctor’s appointment or calling their MLA.

Access to high speed internet is a basic right for Nova Scotians, premier McNeil believes. Access to a landline if you’re poor not so much. That doesn’t make sense.


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  1. It only makes sense to an incumbent party wanting to improve their public image pre-election, in hope that people will forget all the bad decisions they made during their term in office. Notice their sudden increase in visibility and spending announcements?

  2. I want a landline phone and am unable to get one.
    I moved recently to Nova Scotia from Ontario. In part for health reasons. I was proactive in getting my services hooked up for our home and eagerly await getting the phone hooked up, so I could keep in touch with family in Ontario,contact local businesses for services and to make appointments with new healthcare providers.
    The Bell Alliant technician came out to our home on the appointed day. He was laughing when he exited his truck. I was a bit mystified and asked what the joke was. He told me he couldn’t install the phone as there were no lines and he didn’t think I would have the money. He told me it would take approximately $25,000 dollars and months of requests and engineers and plotting before approval could be given and work to run lines would be done.
    Calls to Bell Alliant confrmed his information.
    We had to settle for a phone that runs off the computer. We live in rural NovaScotia in a town of 48. Most of the time the phone doesn’t work at all. I am disabled and if I had an emergency I could not call for help. For the privilege of having this wonderful (NOT ) piece of technology I pay alot of money. I have paid out thousands to boost, augment, do anything to make the phone work. I have yet to successful.
    All I want is a landline. I don’t care about crappy internet, I can get Facebook to work and that is fine. I can’t use YouTube, Netflix,stream, download or open email. But I can wait for these things. What I want REALLY badly is a landline !! And not one that will cost me a King’s ransom, like my crappy internet service to which my crappy phone is connected to.
    Why can my neighbours have one and I must pay huge amounts to have that same right?
    In Ontario, I paid approximately $25 a month from a landline and $55 per month for internet. Here in Nova Scotia I am gouged in excess of $300 per month for my crappy phone and internet. And my computer usage has a cap of 5 gigs. It is ridiculous!

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