Access to the internet is essential. As daily life in our city increasingly requires connectivity, Toronto’s residents, visitors and businesses must be able to access and use the internet to its full potential. However, internet service options for residents and businesses vary throughout the city, both in terms of quality and pricing. There are also some infrastructure gaps, which result in lower quality connections. These inequalities reflect underlying disparities in infrastructure and market competition, impeding full economic and social inclusion. The digital divide in Toronto is a serious barrier to economic opportunity for residents and small businesses and a threat to the city’s long-term economic growth. City Council approved the ConnectTO program at its meeting on February 2, 2021.

ConnectTO Phase 1 Information-Gathering Sessions

  • The City hosted two information-gathering sessions on Thursday, May 20, 2021 and received comments through an online questionnaire related to the pre-tender for ConnectTO Phase 1. The staff presentation given at the information-gathering sessions is available for review.
  • Collaboration between the City (or a City entity) and the private sector to connect underserved areas with fibre to create a City-wide high-speed broadband network, where the private sector partner will deliver the internet to homes and businesses.
  • Public revenue that is generated through this process will be re-invested in communities, primarily through the reduction in internet costs for vulnerable residents.

Phase 1

  • Scope includes initiating connectivity in three identified City priority neighbourhood areas by the end of 2021.
  • Information-gathering to inform Phase 1 procurement began in May 2021.
  • A report of Phase 1 findings to inform future phases will be presented to Toronto City Council towards the end of 2021.
  • Free Wi-Fi has been available at all public library branches and TTC subway stations, and most civic centres for many years. It is also available in a small but increasing number of other publicly-accessible places such as Museums, Squares and public spaces.
  • Through the ConnectTO program, the City is examining opportunities to further expand access to free public Wi-Fi. The current Digital Canopy project – which involves the provision of free Wi-Fi to residents living in 25 apartment towers – is one example of this.
  • In addition to these programs, free Wi-Fi can also be accessed from other public locations:

Through generous donations, the Digital Canopy program was created to extend free public Wi-Fi to low-income neighbourhoods by connecting a number of large residential apartment buildings with access for one year to help bridge the digital divide in the pandemic.

In April 2021, a Youth Learning & Work Placement program was launched to provide 12 weeks of technology training to 15 young adults in the Digital Canopy public Wi-Fi communities. The City of Toronto partnered with the CEE (Careers Education Empowerment) Centre for Young Black Professionals to identify and onboard young adults through various outreach programs in those communities. The program is sponsored by the City of Toronto Youth Development Unit. The networking curriculum content and training support is donated by Cisco Canada.  Facilitated by Toronto Public Library and George Brown College, the program includes Introduction to IoT (Internet of Things), Networking Essentials, and Introduction to Wireless, a Mentoring Roundtable with various panelists, and a virtual tour of the Cisco Innovation Centre.

Upon completion of the program, work placements will be arranged by the CEE Centre. Young adults who have successfully completed the program will be placed with an agency/company seeking resource(s) with skillsets acquired in the program. Continuous improvements will be applied throughout the program based on feedback, surveys and insights gathered. For more information on the Youth Learning & Work Placement program please visit the CEE website or email digitalfeedback@toronto.ca.

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  • In recognition that the digital divide is a function of many disparities, the City is in the process of developing a Digital Equity Policy. This policy will outline a vision to address these disparities, leading to equality and resilience through inclusive access to technology and the internet.
  • Public and stakeholder consultations will take place in 2021, and a report on findings will be presented to Toronto City Council towards the end of 2021.