Editorial – How about high-end phones for low-income Canadians?

Mac Olsen

The debate about how high your bill for you monthly cell phone and Internet services has gone on for many years, and those who can least afford them are usually low-income Canadians. However, I would go beyond that discussion and question why the high-end smartphone manufacturers like Samsung and Apple aren’t making their expensive products available to low-income Canadians.

But let’s put my position in the context of cell phone and Internet service for low-income Canadians. If you look at a recent article by Katy Anderson, found at http://openmedia.org, she highlights a CRTC report released earlier in the month that low-income Canadians spend up to eight per cent of their monthly income on communications services.

“The report, which aggregates data from Statistics Canada and the CRTC, holds few surprises. As mobile and home Internet subscriptions are increasing, we’re seeing television and landline phone subscriptions decrease at a significantly higher rate. And lower income communities continuing to be disproportionately penalized for accessing Basic Services.

“Today’s report (Aug. 16) only further demonstrates what we’ve known for years: Canadians are living in a digital world increasingly leaning towards mobile and home Internet services, but those in lower income brackets, or rural areas, are being underserved and overcharged,” said Anderson. “The idea that anyone should be spending eight per cent of their income towards communications services is absurd, and unfair. We need more affordable options now.”

Highlights from the report include:
. The average Canadian household spends $223 on communication services each month.
. Canadian households are spending an average of $92 per month on mobile services.
. 12.6 per cent of Canadian households do not have a home Internet subscription.
. 12.1 per cent of Canadian households do not have a mobile phone.

I agree with Anderson that low-income Canadians shouldn’t have to put out so much money to access the same services that others with higher incomes have to pay. Eight per cent is a very high amount of money to pay for anyone on low-income.

Given that the federal government has declared that access to the Internet is a human right, this issue should be at the forefront of making it more affordable and accessible to low-income Canadians.

And we have to think about the price of smartphones in the same manner, especially the most expensive ones, to ensure that low-income Canadians should have access to them. For instance, if you check the Telus.com website for the prices of the Samsung Galaxy S9 and the Apple iPhone X, you will see that the full retail prices are $1,055 and $1,350 respectively.

How is someone on a low-income supposed to afford these smartphones? How much more would they have to pay out of their monthly incomes to have one?

Granted, these are high-end smartphones with all the latest bells and whistles aimed at a higher income bracket. But it’s blatantly unfair that those with low incomes aren’t allowed to have access to the same kind of smartphones – and the manufacturers should be forced to offer them at a significantly reduced price.

So, let’s extend the debate to equality for smartphone purchases, to make it fair for low-income Canadians.


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