Canadian broadband is world-class: ISP-funded report

Canada is doing very well in broadband availability, speeds, affordability and coverage as compared to other countries, according to a new study funded by the country's largest internet providers.

Canada is doing very well in broadband availability, speeds and affordability as compared to other countries, according to a new study funded by the country's largest internet service providers.

The report, commissioned by Bell, Bell Aliant, Rogers, Cogeco, Telus, Shaw and SaskTel and prepared by telecommunications consultant Mark Goldberg, found that Canadians are well served in broadband, contrary to the findings of other international reports.

"Canadians have access to some of the most affordable services, while also benefiting from some of the world's fastest connection speeds for both wireline and wireless broadband services," says the report, published Wednesday.

"Canada continues to lead all G8 countries in terms of adoption of internet services, and ranks in the top 10 for most international comparisons on broadband penetration."

The report criticizes the findings of other studies, particularly regular statistics independently published by the Paris-based Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, which have found Canadian broadband to be slower, less advanced and more expensive than in other developed countries.

Other studies have focused too narrowly on fibre-based services when measuring the availability of next-generation networks and have used inconsistent sampling in different countries, Goldberg's report says. They have also used unweighted averages to compare prices and speeds and have measured broadband usage by population rather than household.

Broadband is available to 100 per cent of Canadians through four different technologies — phone lines, cable, wireless and satellite — which is a claim few other countries can make, the report affirms. And cable providers have begun offering services at up to 100 megabits per second, ranking Canada at the top of the international speed heap, while prices are actually lower than what the OECD has found, the report adds.

Mystery endures

About 30 per cent of households still have not chosen to take up broadband, a phenomenon that the report says cannot be fully explained as of yet.

"Affordability is likely an issue for some households, particularly those who might have to pay more in rural and remote Canada, and also among lower-income groups in urban centres," the report says.

"For urban non-adopters who have lower-priced broadband options available to them, it may be that they do no see sufficient value.... This may be because of a lack of digital literacy, or perhaps their ability to use the internet at work is sufficient such that they do not feel the need to buy it for home."

The report also runs counter to an international broadband quality study released last week by Oxford University and sponsored by network builder Cisco. That study's comparisons found that Canadian broadband networks are barely coping with current internet usage and are poorly positioned to handle future applications such as high-definition video.

The ISP-sponsored report criticizes the Oxford study as well for not revealing more details about how it came to its conclusions.

A number of prominent technology leaders — including University of Waterloo president David Johnston, University of Ottawa law professor Michael Geist and Bill St. Arnaud, chief research officer for CANARIE, Canada's government-sponsored advanced internet organization — have said Canada's broadband situation is in crisis.