09 November 2010

How very strange

... for the BC government now to permit public servants to use Facebook, Twitter and other social media, but still not permit them to use email to communicate with members of the public seeking their help.

I have written extensively about the problems for people of low income who must choose between having phone service - landline and cell - and having access to the Internet. For such households, the choice is almost always Internet, given it delivers more bang for the buck. With an Internet-connected computer, headphones and a service like Skype, one can still make outgoing calls to other computers and to phones.

Alas, in Canada - but not in the US, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Korea, Mexico ... and just about every other advanced country in the world - you still cannot obtain an online number. If you had an online number, then people with a phone could call you at your computer. But without benefit of a phone OR an online number, people wanting to call you by phone - and in the case of the BC government, having to call you by phone, since that's the only way public servants are permitted to communicate with you - you cannot be reached.

The only option for someone without a phone but with an Internet-enabled computer is email. And the BC government won't permit public servants to use email to communicate with clients, consumers, or whatever the hell we want to call those seeking service or information from the government.

The BC government has even cut off the ability of public servants to use email in special cases, or so I was told when I was trying to communicate with the people at SAFER. Had the public servant processing my application required clarification, he/she would have had to use snail mail, thus delaying my application's approval by at least two weeks. The ability to send emails, other than in-house, was disabled.

It's so damn frustrating. A simple fix by the CRTC, that it lift its silly 911 restriction, so that VOIP providers could issue online numbers with Canadian area codes, would make the problem go away in an instant. And this fix, in aid of greater access for low income households, wouldn't cost the government a damn thing.

I've SkypeOUT. I'd have SkypeIN if it was permitted in Canada. But with SkypeOUT I have listed in my contacts all the emergency numbers one might need. So what if 911 isn't accessible?!

Lift the damn restriction, CRTC! It's obvious the only reason you have it there is to protect Canada's big telecommunications companies.

[Cross-posted at economicus ridiculous]

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