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.
Creating a Municipal Broadband Network
- 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.
Expanding Access to Free Public Wi-Fi
- 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:
Developing a Digital Equity Policy
- 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.