Toronto

Toronto public libraries, Google to offer free take-home WiFi

Partnership aims to get Torontonians in low-income neighbourhoods online

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You'll soon be able to borrow a WiFi hotspot for up to six months from some Toronto libraries. (Toronto Public Library)

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Toronto libraries have something new you can check out and take home: wireless internet.

Google is partnering with the city to offer portable WiFi hotspots, which will be loaned out for up to six months at a time. Six library branches, all located in low-income neighbourhoods, will offer the service.

The project's goal is to give free internet to Torontonians who can't afford it.

"Google hopes to give some of the most underserved in our city a way to bridge the tech divide," the tech giant said in a news release.

Anti-poverty activists across Canada have been calling for cheaper home internet access, pointing out that everything — from healthcare information to advertising for jobs — is moving online. This spring, the national group ACORN called on Canada's telecom regulator to mandate companies to offer a $10 per month high-speed internet option.

Google notes lending out the hotspots, which provide users with 10 gigabytes of data per month, will be a simple and effective way to get people online.

Toronto Mayor John Tory is set to join representatives from Google Canada on Wednesday to launch the program at the Toronto Public Library's Thorncliffe branch.

A recent CRTC survey found that 11 per cent of Canadian respondents had no home internet service. The EKOS survey, which polled 29,000 Canadians between Jan. 14 and Feb. 29, also found that 75 per cent of people said they were dissatisfied with the price they pay for internet. 

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