Categories: technology, economy
What? In partnership with Google Inc., six Toronto library branches have launched a program that provides free at-home internet access to low-income Torontonians. Through the program, library members can sign-out wifi hotspots for up to six months and, via Google, get free access up to 10GB of data a month.
So what? As part of the current international debate about whether access to the internet is a basic human right, this Toronto Library-Google collaboration raises important questions about the roles of the public and private sectors in providing and ensuring internet access. It's foreseeable that private companies could increasingly offer "free" last mile connectivity to internet users in order to commoditize other aspects of the connection, such as the collection of browsing habits to create personalized ad profiles. Similarly, a technology company that provides "free" access captures future internet users by associating the wider internet with their access services. In this vein, Facebook has been widely criticized for being too involved in the delivery of internet connectivity. If internet access becomes widely accepted as a human right, there may be a greater role for state agency participation and service delivery in what until now has been a service provided by the private sector.
Source: CBC News Toronto - Toronto public libraries, Google to offer free take-home WiFi