Op-ed: Community Access One Pillar of a Digital Economy

April 6, 2010

Community access one pillar of a digital economy

By Marita Moll

On March 16, after three days of intense public pressure following a decision to cut funding to most of Canada’s community access sites (CAP), Industry Minister Tony Clement declared it all a misunderstanding.  The program was reinstated.  It wasn’t quite as dramatic as the backlash over the proposed changes to the wording of the national anthem, but it was a cliff hanger for the thousands of people who use these sites daily for everything from engaging in independent studies, connecting to government programs,  or setting up small businesses to market local products. 

Comment to Canada 150: Day 2 of Liberal Party Visioning Conference

March 27, 2010

In the 1990’s, Liberals had a proactive approach to new communications technologies. Ensuring that Canada took the lead in accessibility to the internet was a high priority policy and prominently featured in the Red Book.

Support for CAP sites reinstated

March 16, 2010

In an astonishingly fast about turn, the federal government has rescinded the letters it sent out to community access sites informing them that they would no longer be funded unless they were more than 25 km from a public library. 

Industry Minister Tony Clement said it had been a funding envelope error.  The sites will  to be funded through the Rural Broadband Strategy program "while the Community Access Program is wound down."  It's a mixed message, for sure. 

Harper government pulls support from community access sites

March 12, 2010

On Mar. 9, administrators of community technology/access sites reported receiving a letter from Industry Canada announcing that their funding was about to be cut off.  "Our support....will target CAP sites that do not have access to a publicly funded library within a 25-kilometre radius."

The government suggests that it is merely about "access", but knows full well that these sites provide much more than that. 

Alternative Federal Budget calls for national strategy on broadband

March 3, 2010

The  Alternative Federal Budget 2010 contains the following recommendations designed to bring Canada's communications infrastructure into the 21st century:

1.  Make access to "effective" bandwidth a legal right for all Canadians.
2. Fund a broad national consultation on modernizing communications policy:  $750,000.
3.  Support new and existing national public access sites: $40M.
4.  Begin planning forn next generation (higher speed) broadband.

International study exposes Canada's growing connectivity gap

March 1, 2010
 A study completed by the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University exposes Canada's lack of progress in the area of broadband connectivity.  The "Canada" chapter of the final edition of this study concludes :
 

"Canada opened the decade as an extremely strong performer on broadband.  Over the course of the decade, its penetration rates have grown more slowly than those of other countries, its prices have remained high, and its speeds are still low in comparison to other OECD countries.  

Liberals say internet is infrastructure

February 16, 2010

 “Rural infrastructure like internet, roads and water services in every rural town needs to be modernized,” said Liberal Rural Caucus Chair Mark Eyking at a Feb 5 roundtable on rural-urban issues.  “That’s why we’re setting a goal of achieving full high-speed internet connectivity in every corner of the country.”  It is nice to hear internet described as infrastructure, which, of course, it is.  But the Liberals will have to go well beyond this goal to distinguish themselves from their rivals.

Digital economy round table -- Feb.11

February 15, 2010

On Feb. 11, Liberal MP and Industry, Science and Technology Critic Marc Garneau held a Roundtable on the Digital Economy.  It was mostly an occasion for industry players to present their version of telecom reform.  However, Michael Hennessy, Senior Vice President, Regulatory Affairs, TELUS noted that one of the biggest problems in this sector was digital literacy and that such programs ought to be funded from the proceeds of spectrum auctions. Those working to keep the 3000+ Industry Canada community access sites alive might want to send him a note of support.

Future of the Internet Town Hall Meetings

January 20, 2010

Telecom Policy - Town Hall Meetings Written by Marita Moll Wednesday, 30 December 2009 In response to the lack of government action on internet issues, a number of public interest organizations have begun sponsoring town hall meetings to faciliate discussions on the future of the Internet in Canada. In 2009, meetings were held in Toronto, Vancouver, Ottawa and Halifax. Various others are currently in the planning stage.These include Montreal, Quebec City, and the Muskokas -- home riding for Tony Clement, Industry Minister.

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