Computer expert says parties’ universal internet access policies look alike

Michael Ignatieff promotes the Liberal Party’s ‘Family Pack’ policy, which includes providing universal internet access to Canadians. (Charrion_IggyFamPlan)

An expert in computer science sees little difference between the Liberal and Conservative policies to implement universal internet access in Canada.

Among his promises thus far in the election, Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff has offered the party’s “Family Pack,” designed to assist Canadian families in their everyday lives. On April 11, Liberal candidate Marc Garneau announced the ‘Digital Canada Strategy’ during an online town hall meeting.

The Westmount-Ville Marie incumbent says his party will establish national broadband internet access and ensure that all government information and statistics become available online for free to all Canadians.

But Graeme Hirst, a computer science professor at University of Toronto, says there’s little to differentiate the two major political parties on this issue.

“The differences are really their willingness to put government money into it and of course when we look at … how much they’re actually willing to take action, when the time comes … it’s really just empty promises,” Hirst said.

In 1994, the Liberal government implemented its first digital strategy through a Community Access program (CAP) by subsidizing private companies and public co-operatives. It was the first broadband strategy in Canada pledging to help remote communities get internet access.

“One of the anomalies that resulted in that, was far northern communities had better internet connectivity than rural Ontario, where residents there couldn’t apply for that program,” Hirst said.

Ryan Sparrow, a media relations officer with the Conservative Party said his party is building on contributions from the private and public sector to deliver universal broadband services for Canadians, especially rural citizens.