Toronto's public libraries have followed New York and Chicago's lead in offering wifi hotspot lending to low-income families, allowing them to "check out the internet" and take it home with them.
But the programme isn't faring so well, thanks to the libraries' telcoms partner, an unnamed wireless company.
That company is capping the hotspots' bandwidth at a paltry 10gb/month, less than 14% of the cheapest commercial home internet service offered by Bell Canada.
The Toronto Public Library hasn't named the telcom, but Rogers has confirmed that it is not the carrier in question. Canada's expensive, uncompetitive telcoms sector is often blamed for the country's shameful digital divide.
According to Tavakolian, the data cap on the library's devices will work for the pilot project participants, which are situated in low-income areas of Toronto. The idea is that they'll be able to send emails and look for work, but not much more. "If we start lending to everybody, then I don't know that it would work with the current data plan," Tavakolian said.
Given the very real struggles that low-income families face, like putting food on the table, streaming video might sound like a silly luxury to harp on. But don't the poor deserve to browse YouTube, too? Should their online life be relegated to the most boring parts of the web?
A Canadian Telecom Is Limiting a Free WiFi Program For Low-Income Families
(Image: Faucet, Nicole-Koehler, CC-BY-SA)