A community group says the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission should hand over more control of internet access to non-profit groups to make it more affordable and widespread.
Chebucto Community Net is a registered charity that provides internet access to members across Nova Scotia for as little as $125 a year for dial-up service. The group prides itself on not turning away anyone simply because they don't have the money to pay.
Andrew Wright, the organization's office manager, is heading to Ottawa to speak on April 25 at a CRTC hearing into whether high-speed internet access should be a basic service and what that could mean.
"We think the way we're doing it is the way to go, which is community run, non-profit internet," Wright told CBC's Information Morning.
He believes providing internet access through non-profits will help close the digital divide between rural and urban areas, and between rich and poor.
Wright said too many people can't access the internet now because of where they live or how much money they have.
High speed at low cost
Chebucto Community Net already provides high-speed wireless internet service for some low-income housing properties in south-end Halifax.
"They typically don't have a lot of money," said Wright. "They might have $500 a month to live on and $300 or so of that goes to rent, so you have very, very little.
"If you want to have internet, then you're sacrificing your prescription or you're sacrificing food, you're cutting something somewhere."
Wireless high-speed internet access through Chebucto Community Net costs $125 per year — the same price as dial-up service, but it is only available to clusters of low-income housing units.
Community internet fund
Wright said there are lots of ways the CRTC could help make internet access more affordable.
"One of the suggestions is that there should be a community internet fund, similar to the sort of thing that provides community access TV," he said.
"The providers pay into it, local outfits like us or things like [a] community access program could use that to provide access to people."
Internet infrastructure is another problem that needs to be addressed, according to Wright. He wants to see publicly owned fibre optic cables installed across the region to ensure more people have access to high-speed internet.
He said if the government won't do it, they should provide money so others can do the work.
"If somebody is putting together a subdivision, it makes a lot of sense to wire those buildings together and have a central point for internet delivery. You know if you negotiate your internet delivery, you get a much better price."