Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia has faster internet than the rest of Canada, PCMag says

Nova Scotia has the fastest internet speeds in Canada according to a popular technology website, but anyone living outside premium service areas might be scratching their heads, wondering if the results apply to them.

Tech website says New Brunswick is second fastest province in the country

A Dalhousie associate professor and internet expert says fibre optics in Nova Scotia are providing some of the fastest internet speeds in the country, but the number of customers who are actually getting these speeds is questionable. (Daniel Munoz/Reuters)

Nova Scotia has the fastest internet speeds in Canada according to a popular technology website, but anyone living outside premium service areas might be scratching their heads wondering if the results apply to them. 

PCMag.com published the results of its Fastest ISPs 2015 Canada research on Friday. The article shows that Nova Scotians can watch Netflix or browse Facebook faster than anyone else in the country.

"PCMag isn't the first organization to try to measure this internet speed," said Mike Smit, an associate professor of Information Management at Dalhousie University.

BellAliant was given the best score out of any ISP in Canada. (Deborah Irvine Anderson)

"I would say, if you're reading this PC Magazine article and you're living in a rural area, you are not going to see yourself in the numbers that you're seeing there." 

The magazine measured speed test data provided by readers against the publication's own Internet Speed Index — calculated by taking 80 per cent of the average download speed and 20 per cent of the upload and adding them together. Each major Canadian internet service provider (ISP) had its speeds tested at least 50 times. 

Bell Aliant, which services Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland & Labrador and P.E.I., scored 56.4 Megabits per second (Mbps). 

Eastlink, the other major service provider for Nova Scotia, scored 15.7. 

Nova Scotia scored the fastest speeds of any province with a score of 50.9 Mbps. New Brunswick was a close second with 48.9 Mbps. Alberta, in third, scored 26.9.

Variables

PCMag's Internet Speed Index is a fair way to measure speeds, Smit says, but those averages may not represent the experience of many internet users in the province. 

"I have a lot of family in the Annapolis Valley and some of them live just minutes from major 100-series highways. Are they rural? Yes. But it's not like they're living in the backwoods of deserted, no-population areas — and they have antennas on their house to try to get some internet," Smit explained. 

When analyzing a province's internet speeds, Smit says it's important to look at who's subscribing to what speeds, where, and at what prices. 

The article, for instance, states the average speed in Halifax is 12.8 Mbps, whereas Dartmouth is 186.1 Mbps. 

"That would be very surprising if that were true, so we know there's something going on in the data here where the picture across the province isn't necessarily consistent across Bell Aliant."

Smit speculates the data doesn't take into account the connection types Bell Aliant provides — fibre-to-the-home versus high-speed internet across the phone line — which were installed in different areas at different times.

Need for speed

A province's geographic size and population density can determine prices, caps and the speeds themselves, Smit says. Some customers may not appreciate PCMag's results because of how it measures satisfaction with a product, Smit said.

"One of our measures of value is what we're getting for what we're giving," he said.

"I don't think you can talk about the capacity of internet networks without talking about the price of that connection." 

"FibreOp isn't cheap," Smit continued. "And so if you're pricing a product out the range of people, then just like your rural-urban [speed] split, you have this wealthy, not-wealthy split where some people have full access to the internet and other people are having a very different experience." 

In an email to CBC, a Bell Aliant spokesperson said the company doesn't release provincial-level customer details for competitive reasons. 

But in Atlantic Canada, the company did say FibreOp service is available — but not necessarily installed — at over 789,000 homes and businesses.

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