Community-level internet projects can help close the digital divide – here’s what’s needed

Local innovation is key to getting more Canadians connected to the internet, but there’s not nearly enough funding to power it.

Why It Matters

COVID-19 has exposed the depth of Canada’s digital divide, but major telecom companies lack the incentives to reach remote communities and vulnerable populations. Without more locally-driven solutions, digital equity advocates say millions of Canadians will continue to lack the “basic right” to a reliable internet connection.

This story would not be possible without our partnership with CIRA (Canadian Internet Registration Authority).

In Halifax, Nova Scotia, Chebucto Community Net provides internet to more than 400 low-income people, most of whom could not afford online access. The non-profit managed to reach them by putting Wi-Fi into a few local public housing projects.

Participating residents pay just $125 each year in return for a basic connection to the online world, along with technical support from hard-working volunteers who run it. And the package is pretty bare-bones – they even still offer dial-up.

“These people really don’t have any other option,” says Shahab Rowshan, the chair of Chebucto, whose clientele includes people who are unemployed, disabled or elderly, and can’t afford commercial internet or access public networks.

“It’s a human rig

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