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A megabit is an eighth of a megabyte. A 3½-minute song on iTunes is about 7.5 megabytes. ((Associated Press))

All Canadians should be able to download a 3½ –minute song in 12 seconds and stream high-definition videos by 2015 under new national internet speed targets.

Canada's telecommunications regulator, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, expects all Canadians to have access to broadband internet speeds of at least five megabits per second for downloads and one megabit per second for uploads, the regulator announced late Tuesday. Those speeds must be actual speeds rather than advertised speeds, the regulator said.

A megabit is an eighth of a megabyte. A 3½-minute song on iTunes is about 7.5 megabytes.

Advertised speeds

  • Rogers advertises packages with a speed of up to 50 Mbps, while Bell and Telus advertise top speeds of up to 25 Mbps.
  • 5 Mbps is slightly slower than Bell's 6 Mbps "performance" and Telus's "high-speed" internet packages.
  • Xplornet, which provides satellite internet in rural areas, advertises speeds of up to 5 Mbps in some parts of Canada.

To stream movies in high-definition using Netflix's top quality, you need download speed about 4.7 megabits per second, the company's tech blog says. It adds that most Canadian ISPs carry its streams at an average of between 2.5 and three megabits per second.

More than 80 per cent of households already have access to download speeds of at least five megabits per second or higher, the CRTC reports.

The commission anticipates that the target will be reached for the remaining households through a combination of private investments, government funding and public-private partnerships. It says it will monitor the industry's progress.

Finnish target: 100 Mbps

Starting July 2010, Finland made a connection of one megabit per second a legal right. The country's goal is a 100 megabits per second connection for all Finns by 2015.

"This activity will allow the commission, in future, to determine whether regulatory intervention may be needed," it said.

The target comes out of a review of basic telecommunications services, which included a public consultation last fall.

The review looked at what role the commission should have in boosting high-speed internet access, whether it should be considered part of basic telecommunications service and whether it should be subsidized.

In the end, the commission decided not to make internet a basic service and decided against establishing a subsidy regime, saying it preferred to rely on "market forces" and that regulatory intervention is "not appropriate at this time."

Home phone rules loosened

As a result of the review, the CRTC also loosened requirements for large telecommunications companies such as Bell to provide home telephone service.

In urban areas, where competitors exist and home phone service has been largely deregulated, such companies will still have to provide access to a basic home phone line to all customers who request it, but will no longer be required to provide:

  • Access to low-speed internet at local rates.
  • Operator and directory assistance services.
  • Access to the long-distance network.
  • Enhanced calling feature.
  • A copy of the current local telephone directory.

The companies will still be required to provide those services in regulated areas, mostly rural regions, where there are no competitors.

The CRTC also raised the cap on the price of a basic residential phone line to $30 per month by 2013.

Corrections

  • Xplornet offers satellite internet at speeds of up to 5 Mbps in some parts of Canada. An earlier version of this story suggested the maximum speed advertised across the country was 1 Mbps.
    May 06, 2011 2:15 PM ET