High-speed internet at $20 a month for low income seniors, families to be announced

Eligible households are to receive a letter from the government to allow them to sign up for the program

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The federal government is set to announce a new phase to a program that provides high-speed internet at $20 per month to low-income families and seniors across Canada.

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“Being connected is important to maintain professional, social, economic and cultural networks within the digital economy. However, many low-income Canadians are still facing barriers that prevent their full participation in the economy,” said François-Philippe Champagne, minister of innovation, science and industry, in a news release.

The website for the Connecting Families initiative, which launched in November 2018, says it has helped 75,000 families access the internet, as internet service providers offer cheap internet services to those who may not already be able to afford them.

There are, according to the news release, 14 participating providers, including major players such as Telus, Bell Media and Rogers. The release says “hundreds of thousands” will be assisted by the program.

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This next phase of the program, to be announced Monday, will provide people with 200 gigabytes of data usage per month, at speeds of 50 megabits per second download and 10 megabits per second upload. It also expands eligibility from families receiving the maximum Canada Child Benefit — a tax-free payment to defray the costs of raising children — to seniors receiving the maximum Guaranteed Income Supplement, a monthly payment to low-income seniors.  (The existing plan, which offers a $10 per month internet plan with somewhat slower internet and less data, remains available.)

The government is working towards 98 per cent connectivity to high-speed internet by 2026 and 100 per cent connectivity by 2030.

“Providing low-income seniors with affordable access to high-speed Internet service will make a tremendous difference in their everyday lives,” said seniors minister Kamal Khera, in a statement.

Eligible households, the release says, will receive a letter from the government to allow them to sign up for the program.

Canada infamously has among the highest costs for internet (and cellphone plans) in the world. One 2019 report found that Canadian plans offering 100 gigabytes of data averaged around $80, compared to around $55 in the United Kingdom and around $62 in the United States.