City partnerships to provide free internet access to vulnerable populations across Toronto

Apr 28 2020, 1:38 pm

Mayor John Tory announced that Toronto has partnered with technology and telecommunications companies to provide free temporary internet access for many vulnerable residents during the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Tuesday, Tory said these partnerships will provide free access for residents in lower-income neighbourhoods, seniors in long-term care homes and clients in many City-operated shelters.

These initiatives will allow more people to connect online to social supports and important services while still complying with directives to stay at home during the pandemic.

“During this difficult time, it’s imperative that our most vulnerable residents have access to the supports they need and are still able to feel a sense of connection while physically distancing in order to protect themselves,” Tory said.

“I want to thank all of our technology and telecommunications partners for helping to make this possible by making donations to help those most in need.”

Tory noted with libraries and other centres closed, that often provide Wi-Fi access for many vulnerable Toronto residents, they can no longer use these public facilities to do so, prompting the need to have better internet access.

For lower-income neighbourhoods, 25 large residential apartment buildings will have temporary free internet access for one year, with the first buildings deployed starting in early May.

The City’s Technology Services Division deployed free 24 hour access to WiFi throughout all 10 City-operated long-term care homes.

As residents in long-term care homes can no longer have visitors, Tory said it will help with social isolation many are experiencing.

Partnerships for the access includes Cisco Canada, Bell, OnX Canada, BAI Canada, and Beanfield Metroconnect.

And in shelters, Rogers is donating free WiFi for three months to four permanent shelter locations as of April 2020 and free WiFi has also been installed in five temporary shelter locations, to help facilitate physical distancing.

As physical distancing measures continue to be mandated, Tory said that for now, Toronto is not at the stage to “worry about dates” to reopen on the economy, as cases continue to rise.

The city reached 5,128 total COVID-19 cases, as of Tuesday afternoon.

Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa confirmed that 319 patients are in hospital, of which 109 are in ICU and 305 have died.

While Toronto’s coronavirus numbers in the general population were confirmed to be in the peak, the numbers are still increasing, making reopening the economy difficult at this time.

Tory said he was interested in Premier Doug Ford’s three stage framework for reopening the economy, but what he took note of was just getting to phase one.

“We still have quite a bit of work to do. As you saw in the framework, we still have at least two to four weeks to have a steady downward trend,” Tory said.

For now, residents must continue to physically distance themselves, meaning Toronto is “not at a stage to worry about dates,” and will only reopen the economy when the numbers can justify the first phase of reopening.