OTTAWA, 1 June 2021— The recent CRTC reversal on wholesale internet rates will disproportionately affect those living on low incomes, says local non-profit Internet Service Provider National Capital FreeNet. They’re working to change that.
Founded in 1992 to make the internet accessible to everyone in the region, National Capital FreeNet (NCF) has connected thousands of people across the Capital.
“Higher prices are hard on everyone. We know from past studies and first-hand experience that some of those living on low incomes will need to make trade-offs with their food budgets and other necessities just to stay connected,” said NCF Executive Director Shelley Robinson.
CRTC data shows that average internet prices went up from $41.50 to $61.76 between 2013 and 2019, which doesn’t include price increases in 2020 related to increased home internet use during the pandemic.
“This decision will only make that worse,” says Robinson, noting that the CRTC decision failed to mention or account for affordability. “We all benefit from making sure everyone is connected.”
NCF currently offers internet service to the public as well as a special lower-cost plan available to Ottawa Community Housing tenants. After the 2019 CRTC decision to lower rates, they planned to expand the eligibility for their lower-cost plan, adding higher speeds at a lower cost. Now they have temporarily shelved the idea while they look at their options under the higher rates.
NCF is working with the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) to see how they could petition the CRTC to make changes to the current tariff structure, allowing for not-for-profits to help those that need it most.
“All consumers need more affordable internet, especially during the pandemic. As a not-for-profit, NCF isn’t trying to compete with the big telecom companies and its operations and important community work shouldn’t be threatened because of these high rates,” said John Lawford, Executive Director and General Counsel for PIAC.
This past year NCF received United Way funding to look at alternative ways to deliver home and public internet services over a community-based Wi-Fi network, which would not be subject to the same high tariffs.
“We’ve been around a long time for a reason,” said NCF Board Chair Chris Cope. “The internet has become a necessity for work, school, government services, social connection and more. We’re trying every avenue to make sure no one is left behind.”
For more information contact:
National Capital FreeNet
office) 613-721-1773 ext. 1001