Halifax project bringing Wi-Fi to low-income seniors

A Halifax internet provider is trying to beam high-speed, Wi-Fi internet to two low-income seniors.
A new project will hook up two Halifax seniors homes with high-speed internet access. 1:54

A Halifax internet provider is trying to beam high-speed, wireless internet to two low-income seniors’ home in an attempt to bridge the "digital divide" between those who have the internet and those who don't.

Michael Lindsay said he hooks his small netbook computer up to a phone line to stay in touch with his family in the United Kingdom and Fort McMurray.

He and his neighbours have been waiting for the high speed project for years. He currently pays $10 per month for dial-up service.

"Your children grow up, move away. Your life shrinks, unless you make an active effort to get out, but not everyone can. I think this is a way for people to feel like they're connected to the world."

Chebucto Community Net says it plans to use a radio signal to broadcast wireless internet from the top of a Dalhousie University building to two seniors’ buildings in the south end.

They purchase bandwidth through Dalhousie University, which is a member of a larger network called the Atlantic Canada Organization of Research Networks.

The signal would then be distributed through the buildings using wireless transmitters. The 400 residents could buy the high speed service for a yearly rate of $125 each.

"People who live in these buildings do not have a lot for money. Expecting them to buy a $50 a month bundle or something to get basic internet access is just unreasonable," said office manager Andrew Wright.

Wright said it was a long process to scrape together $23,000 to buy the transmission equipment, but installation should happen within the next two months.

A 2010 Statistics Canada survey found only about 50 per cent of 65-year-old seniors used the Internet and  those numbers fell the older people got.

Lindsay said despite those numbers, seniors do want to be connected.

If the first experiment is a success, Chebucto Community Net is hoping to bring the service to similar buildings around the city.