Intervention: Chebucto Community Net Society (Intervenor 261)

Document Name: 2015-134.223987.2394495.Intervention(1fblr01!).html

My name is **** D **** and I am office manager for the Chebucto Community Net, a registered non-profit charitable society based in Halifax, Nova Scotia. For 21 years Chebucto Community Net has provided free and low-cost Internet access and for 18 of those years I personally have been involved with these operations.In 2013, Chebucto Community Net began the Manors Project, bringing low-cost highspeed Internet access to publicly-owned low income housing. Currently some 309 low-income units enjoy 10 Mbps download and upload speeds for an annual society membership of $125.00 with no other charges. With volunteer labor and grants from ACORN-NS (Atlantic Canada Organization of Research Networks - Nova Scotia) and CIRA, the Canadian Internet Registry Authority, the Manors Project will bring this connectivity to three more Manors in 2015, totalling 787 apartment units. In Nova Scotia there are three "Digital Divides" preventing people from accessing the Internet.The first affects primarily seniors and is a lack of knowledge on how to access Internet resources. Chebucto Community Net, along with other groups in Nova Scotia including the public libraries, the Community Access Program (C@P) and some food banks have made efforts to address this knowledge deficit and the work continues.The second Digital Divide is economic. **** Internet access higher than $10 per month and it will be beyond the reach of a significant part of the population, particularly the ill and the elderly. This was one of several critical flaws with the NS government's Broadband Initiative, which attempted to deliver highspeed Internet access to rural Nova Scotia but priced basic highspeed access (< 1.5 Mbps) around $50 per month. The third Digital Divide is lack of availability of true highspeed broadband Internet and affects virtually all Nova Scotians. Bell's top plan costs $250 a month for 450 Mbps down, 350 Mbps up while cable company Eastlink's top plan is $3 a month more for 400 Mbps down, 10(!) Mbps up. By comparison, Google offers Gbps access for well under $100 a month in other jurisdictions.We need help.Corporations don't care. In 20 years cost of access has remained stagnant while speeds have only slowly increased to levels much below many other countries. Profit motive incentivizes slower, more costly or capped access. Governments don't care. In NS all three major parties have overseen cuts to public access computers and have done little to nothing to change the status quo.Internet access is expensive to install, and is frequently physically difficult as well. However once installed, it is relatively cheap to run. With this in mind, we at Chebucto Community Net are of the opinion that Nova Scotia's true answer is to encourage the development and growth of non-profit community-owned-and-operated highspeed fibre access. We know that the effort involved will be hard, even with financial support and incentives that don't currently exist, but that the reward - a connected NS population with low-cost access for those who need it, will last many decades. Nova Scotia's main asset, and the only one that will outlast a legacy resource based economy, is its people. Plentiful cheap broadband access is the new resource. Ordinary people will find an endless number of ways to benefit themselves and their communities. The home-based animator uploading large video files to the studio in Vancouver; the company that uses large datasets or the small business that likes regular off-site hard disk backups - right now these people would have a mediocre network experience in Nova Scotia's urban centres and would simply be unable to locate in rural Nova Scotia. The money that would be brought into these communities will go elsewhere as things stand. We believe that the CRTC could play a role. Funding non-profit Internet builds by community organizations could very well be supported by a "community Internet" fund raised from the large scale Internet Service Providers. Raisons pour comparaitre / Reasons for appearanceThe low-cost non-profit Internet Provider perspective has been virtually absent from the public discussion. We would want to discuss 'the view from the bottom' and how it pertains to Internet access, lessons we've learned in running both dial-up and highspeed services through our Manors Project and provide some of the 'personal touch' to the issue that can only come from years of experience with hands-on assistance to the general public.Only if we are allowed to be present would we be able to answer questions about our unique perspective as being the oldest Internet Service Provider in Eastern Canada.