The CAP site at the Montague library
The days of free access to high-speed Internet access in P.E.I. could be numbered as some Community Access Program sites brace for the federal government to eliminate its funding.
Elizabeth Wilson, who runs CAP sites in Afton and Cornwall, said the funding change shows how disconnected the federal government is from Canadians with lower incomes and no access to high-speed Internet.
“I don’t know if they can imagine someone making minimum wage,” she said.
As of Monday, Wilson hadn’t officially heard the federal government was cutting the program, but said she saw media reports out of Nova Scotia that confirmed the CAP funding is ending.
Industry Canada oversees the program that provides affordable Internet access through sites in communities across the country.
Although the federal government hasn’t made an official announcement yet, Industry Canada sent an e-mail Thursday night to the chairman of the Nova Scotia CAP Association to inform him of the funding change.
Wilson said people still use the sites she manages and, last year, more than 3,000 of them went to the Afton CAP site.
Although that was down from the previous year, the Cornwall site seems to be busier with 200 to 300 people per month using it so far in 2012, she said.
“It’s hard to believe that we’re seeing that much usage but we are,” she said.
Wilson said so many things have moved online people need Internet access, including for things like employment insurance applications.
“If there wasn’t such an emphasis from the federal government on using technology I might even understand it a bit more,” she said.
Once the program funding runs out, the CAP site in Cornwall will close within a month and the Afton site won’t be far behind, Wilson said.
The situation in Crapaud isn’t quite as serious because its CAP site paid for its Internet service in advance.
Neila Auld, one of the site’s volunteers, said it can probably keep going for about a year once the funding ends, but after that it would have to close.
Auld said the site has had a lot of uses in the community, including providing Internet access for tourists and creating summer jobs for local students.
“It would be missed if it was gone,” she said.
For the people who use the site, Auld said she doesn’t know what they will do if the funding is cut.
“Everything is online now.”