Media release Poverty

ACORN takes aim at Trudeau government’s failure to regulate internet affordability

Press Release 

For Immediate Release

October 28th 2020

CONTACT: 

Sydnee Blum – Field Organizer, NS

EMAIL: halifax@acorncanada.org

Calls uptake to the Federal Connecting Families Program “pitiful”

Halifax, NS – On Wednesday. October 28th, ACORN will be holding actions in nine cities across the country calling out the Federal Government’s affordable internet program.  ACORN will be highlighting that low participation rates in the much publicized Connecting Families Program means very few low-income families actually are benefiting from the program.  Further, ACORN will be showing that during a global pandemic its campaign for that and $10 Internet for low-income families is increasingly needed. 

VIRTUAL VIDEO  RALLY

When: Wednesday, Oct 28th at 2PM (AST)

Where: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/83263339371

What:  ACORN leaders from across Canada will describe the state of our ‘Internet for All’ campaign and facilitate phone blitzes of Liberal MP’s offices. 

Background: 

As the pandemic rages on, internet prices continue to soar. Recently, major telcos like Bell & Rogers were able to put the court’s decision to slash the wholesale internet rates on hold. All the while they refuse to create programs for low income people, as ACORN has been calling for as part of it’s Internet for All campaign.   ACORN’s campaign is calling for all “low-income Canadians” and “fixed-income seniors” to have access to $10/month internet with 50 Mbps upload / 10 Mbps download speed through the Connecting Families program.

Recent numbers released show just how bad the federal government is doing at getting low-income people online.  The Connecting Families Program has an uptake rate of only 5% and below 2% when you look at making it inclusive.  

ACORN National Spokesperson Alejandra Ruiz Vargas has this to say about the failures of the Trudeau government, “The Trudeau government has committed to connect every Canadian to affordable high-speed internet by 2030, not only is that ten years too late, but at the rate they are getting people connected it would be surprising they hit that low target.  Only 5% of low-income parents have been able to enrol in the program? That’s pitiful.” 

Janice Pace, Halifax ACORN Co-Chair says of her experience with the Connecting Families program, “I was so excited to be offered the program that I called right away. Only to find out it was a waste of my time. The representative from Bell Aliant told me they only offered dial-up, and he continued to tell me every person who he installed had cancelled less than a week later. As a single mom of a school-aged child needing access to a computer and Internet daily for homework, this was a slap in the face. Paying over $100 for the Internet each month is hard but we really have no choice, with the pandemic and everything being online. Expecting someone who is on assistance to spend that much on the Internet is ridiculous and winds up coming out of our food budget.”

We are into the second wave of the pandemic and everyone needs internet access for almost everything!  A survey conducted by ACORN Canada in 2019 showed that a quarter of people sacrificed food in order to pay for internet services and almost one third had made multiple sacrifices. It’s a no brainer that the situation is far worse now. 

ACORN has been fighting to ensure that everyone has access to the internet for years and won the Federal Connecting Families Program, but there are major issues with the program: 

  • Uptake is dismal at 5% of some low income parents.  Below to 2% when you add in all 3.4 million who may need the program.
  • The voluntary program  targets ONLY some low-income families with children. There were 3.4 million people below the official poverty line (Canada Market Based Measure) in 2017. 
  • Cap of 220,000 families. Only those families are eligible who get maximum child care benefit
  • Eligibility is massively restricted to only those who get maximum child care benefit
  • Companies like Eastlink are Free to opt-out.

ACORN is calling on the federal government to act swiftly and bridge this digital divide by offering all “low-income Canadians” and “fixed-income seniors” $10/month internet with 50/10 speed through the Connecting Families program.

ABOUT ACORN CANADA:

ACORN Canada is a national independent organization is an independent national organization of low- and moderate-income families with 140,000+ members in 20+ neighbourhood chapters across 9 cities. 

Access ACORN Canada 2019 survey here: https://acorncanada.org/resource/internet-essential-service

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