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Low-income earners spending 'absurd' amounts on communications, says advocate

Last Updated Aug 16, 2018 at 5:20 pm EST

Canada's telecom regulator says the average household spent nearly $223 every month on communications services, including mobile phones, landlines, Internet and cable TV in 2016. Networking cables in a server bay are shown in Toronto on Wednesday, November 8, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

OTTAWA – Canada’s telecom regulator says the average household spent nearly $223 every month on communications services, including mobile phones, landlines, internet and cable TV in 2016.

But low-income households are spending exponentially more than higher income earners as a percentage of their income, according to the CRTC’s latest Communications Monitoring Report.

The snapshot of expenditures shows households with incomes below $32,090 spent 8.6 per cent of what they earned in 2016 on communications.

That compares to just 1.7 per cent of income for households earning above $130,000.

The report also revealed the amount spent on mobile devices in Canada increased by 8.8 per cent from 2015 to 2016 while telephone landline expenditures declined by the same rate.

Spending on cable and satellite TV services fell by 1.4 per cent during the same period while Canadians spent 6.5 per cent more for internet services.

The report also revealed more than 12 per cent of Canadian households had no subscriptions to either internet or mobile services.

Internet freedom advocacy group OpenMedia says the report adds to evidence that lower-income Canadians are at the losing end of the digital age.

“The idea that anyone should be spending eight per cent of their income towards communications services is absurd, and unfair,” said OpenMedia digital rights advocate Katy Anderson.

“We need more affordable options now.”

The partial report, compiled using data from Statistics Canada and the CRTC, was released Thursday on the regulator’s website. It indicates spending by households in 2016 averaged $27.50 monthly for telephone landlines, $49.50 for internet, $53.75 for TV distribution and $92.08 for mobile services.

Rural households in Saskatchewan spent the most overall, with monthly bills averaging $282.17 while urban dwellers in Quebec spent the least, $169.94 on average.