School Trustee Howard Kaplan Dies at 72

Flags in local schools were flown at half-mast when news broke. Howard Kaplan will be remembered as an activist in the local community that cared deeply about public education and issues of equity. He was first elected TDSB Trustee in 2010 and was re-elected in 2014. He fought for early childhood education programs, equity in education and was a very active member in the community.

Howard became ill recently and was waiting for a liver transplant.

He wrote on Facebook in November:
“I’ve been diagnosed with an auto-immune condition: IgG4-related sclerosing cholangitis. Look it up, it’s too complicated to explain it here. What it means is that I will eventually need a new liver. I am currently undergoing a battery of tests to see if I am a suitable candidate for a transplant: I have to be healthy enough — good heart, lungs, kidneys, etc; and I have to be sick enough — my liver has to be really bad. Accordingly, my energy level fluctuates day-by-day. I don’t know from one day to the next how much work I can do. It will get worse as time goes on until I get a new liver… if I’m a suitable candidate. As far as my work as a Trustee goes, I’m doing what I can, when I can. Staff are aware of my condition, and are taking on some of my constituency work.”

On behalf of The Downsview Advocate we send his family our deepest condolences during this difficult time -he was a great man that did very good things for this community.

Big Telecoms raising your internet price

Your internet bill is going up soon -if your service is with Bell or Rogers.

The two companies announced earlier this month that the price of their services are going up across the board. I got my letter just last week.

As consumers, we do not have much of a choice as far as internet services are concerned. In Canada and particularly in Ontario, the variety of services are not great. Bell and Rogers own most of the network infrastructure. Almost all the other service providers “rent” their wires to provide the service into your home. They can offer some savings but depend on the big companies for servicing and repairs. The experience of calling Acanac or another one of the little internet providers with a technical service request when your internet is down is, as one could imagine, not always pleasant. You can almost imagine some Rogers’ tech guy dragging his feet in order to avoid having to fix the issue of the start-up competitors.

Bell has now started a legal process to stop even this small measure of competition from happening. The CRTC, the government body that regulates the Big Telecoms, ruled earlier that Bell, Rogers and Telus have to provide their networks at wholesale prices to smaller companies. They are legally required to do so. Bell is arguing that this is causing them to stop investing in their network and that that in turn would lead to job losses.

You have not heard much about this on the news yet and maybe you will, because this will hit all of us in the pocket books. But it is hard not to be cynical about the small amount of coverage on the news on this type of issue when Bell and Rogers in particular have so much influence over the media that is available to the public (Bell for example owns CP24, CTV, The Globe and Mail and others). It is even harder to believe that the Big Telecoms are arguing that the subpar network that they are making available to us in Toronto under near monopoly conditions needs to be protected from competition in order for us to see improvements.

City Councillor Mike Layton is moving a motion at the City of Toronto to get the City to take the side of consumers on this. You can see his motion here:

http://mikelayton.to/competitive-and-affordable-internet-prices-for-toronto

The City of Calgary already did so earlier last month. They had a 30 page report challenging Bell on the grounds that more competition is needed to improve the service.

The Big Telecoms have not invested in the network in our area. Canada has a very unreliable system, by world standards, and high internet speed is not found in all neighbourhood, least of all Downsview. We need competition to keep the big companies honest.

Cutting the cord on expensive cable

If you hate your cable and internet bill, keep reading this article.
Cable and Internet can set you back $100 to $200 every month. Luckily you have some alternatives, particularly for cable. The problem of course is that there are only two major providers. All the smaller cable and internet providers use Rogers and Bell infrastructure so that there is not a lot of competition. It really comes down to a having two private companies with a shared protected monopoly. This explains the lack of service when you call them for anything. It also explains the movement of people that call themselves “cordcutters”.
“Cordcutters” are people that got tired of the high fees and poor customer service and looked for ways around streaming content.
There are options out there. For starters, pick-and-pay cable is finally coming to Canada. The Federal agency that oversees the cable industry gave all cable companies until March of 2016 to provide a new service. Starting in two months all cable companies will have to provide the following new items:
• “basic” bundles for $25
• all channels not included in the basic package are to be offered in small packages or individually
You want the sports channels, but not the other 200 odd channels that come with it? You will have more options now with traditional cable companies. However, this is not the solution for everyone. For many, maybe cable TV does not offer all you need so many people have now switched to internet media streamers.
You can get a lot of content directly to your TV through a media streamer connected to the internet. Through the box you can search for content, order a TV series, download movies, etc. There are dozens of models, but they come in two basic forms: paid boxes and free boxes.
The most popular paid boxes are Roku, Amazon Fire TV and Apple TV. While they provide access to some free programming, they largely depend on consumers ordering content services like Netflix, Amazon, Cineplex, NHL Gamecentre Live, VUDU, etc. Apple TV on the other hand has limited options to free content. The boxes range from about $100.00 and ordering the services you want as opposed to a package with 300 channels you don’t watch can save you some money.
The free programming based boxes also offer access to some of the same paid content, but they also offer alternatives to watch some of the same shows and live events without having to fork over the money. Some of the most common alternative media streamers are Xbox, PS4, Android TV and Chromecast. These range widely in price. They can go from $50 to $500. Depending on what you need and your budget, you may not need to pay for any services after you buy the hardware but you need a good internet connection.
The last method may be the easiest and most economical to set up. It provides you with up to two dozen high definition channel, requires only a one time purchase and installation and requires no monthly payments of any kind, internet or cable. Your trusted old antenna is not your grandparent’s antenna any more. By law, all major TV broadcasters now have to provide HD TV over the airwaves. In Downsview a good antenna can get you up to 26 channels from Canada and the US.
Have you cut the cord yet?
For more information and resources you can go here:
http://cordbreaker.ca
http://www.canadiancordcutting.com/