In Ontario, the government is encouraging consumers to upgrade their home internet service, as well as to switch to wireless broadband, in a move that could save more than half the province’s households $1 billion over the next decade.
The province has been looking at ways to expand internet access to its rural areas, but those plans have been plagued by challenges in the face of increasing demand from internet providers and increased competition from wireless companies, including Bell and Rogers, who have both announced plans to expand their own services.
The Ontario government has also been talking about offering more discounts to people with pre-paid internet service plans, but a recent study released by a non-profit group found that of the people it surveyed, about one-third of them were unable to upgrade to the plans, and some even opted out.
In the province, where most people live in rural areas where the average home is less than one kilometre from a road, about 30 per cent of households do not have access to internet service.
About half of households in Ontario live in remote rural areas.
“It’s a pretty significant problem, especially if you’re talking about people who have a small home,” said Richard Wiese, vice president of research at the consumer group Choice Ontario, which has studied the issue for several years.
“So if you are an average household in rural Ontario, and you are going to be paying for that broadband for a year or more, it’s a huge problem.”
Wiese said he is surprised the government did not offer incentives for people to upgrade, and that it could have had a big impact on the number of households that could afford to do so.
The Ontario Government is encouraging the government to offer discounts for people with a pre-payment plan, but that plan is only available to some people.
The province’s information technology services minister, Lisa MacLeod, said this is an example of the government working hard to reach rural Ontarians.
MacLeod said the provincial government has been working with a variety of companies to offer subsidies to low-income people to help them access broadband, but they are still looking at the cost of this.
“We are looking at some options that would allow people to receive some discounts,” she said.
There are also other ways to help rural Ontarian households, such as offering subsidies to small businesses that may have low wages or that are small in scale.
Wieses said he was surprised by the number that were unable or unwilling to upgrade.
While the provincial agency that monitors consumer services, the Ministry of Information Technology, said in a statement that it was working to expand the availability of internet access in rural communities, many residents are not able to afford this.
That’s a problem because many of them do not work full-time and do not know how to take advantage of the financial incentive.
This could be a really big problem for rural communities.
It could be quite a big issue for the whole economy,” said Wieses.
Ontario’s minister of public works and services, David MacNaughton, has been trying to attract more wireless internet customers and offer discounts to those who have pre-pay internet.
The provincial government is also looking to provide subsidies for those who can afford them.”
I think the most important thing is that we do not give away a free pass to people,” said MacNougans.
When it comes to internet, Ontario is the only province that doesn’t offer subsidies.
In the U.S., it is the other way around.
In Canada, consumers who are paying for internet service can only receive a small amount.
Consumers in the province pay about $50 per month for basic internet service and can only take a small part of that away, and about half of that goes to those living in remote areas.
Ontario has the third-highest rate of household internet usage in Canada.
However, it is not just about the internet.
Ontario also has some of the highest poverty rates in the country.
But, Wiesse said, the internet is just a part of the story, and the real story is how rural Ontario is struggling with high levels of poverty and lack of broadband.
What are your thoughts on the Ontario government’s plan to help people with high costs to access the internet?
Please share this story with your friends and family using the social media buttons below.
Read more from Postmedia: