CRTC Finds Canada’s Internet Speeds Aren’t up to Par

Canada’s internet speeds aren’t measuring up.

The Canadian-Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) released its annual Communications Monitoring Report for 2017 and unsurprisingly found that both mobile phone usage and home internet usage has grown over the past year, at a rate of 25 per cent and 23 per cent respectively.

What’s a bit more shocking is that Canadians continue to have slower-than-mandated internet speeds. At the end of 2016, the CRTC enacted rules that the base broadband internet speed must be 10 Mbps for upload and 50 Mbps for download. However, as of the end of last year, 89 per cent of Canadians do not have subscriptions that meet that criteria.

Only 11 per cent of Canadian households subscribe to the bare minimum or better internet speeds mandated by the CRTC.

Countries like the U.S., Germany and Australia all have similar mandates that enforce a certain download and upload speed. When the CRTC announced their mandate last year, they stated that 82 per cent of Canadians have access to the minimum speeds and that the struggle will be reaching rural and far-away areas.

“It’s been almost a year since high-speed Internet was declared a basic service in Canada, but we are still far from this being a reality for the majority of Canadians,” said OpenMedia digital rights advocate Katy Anderson. “Even though those speeds are becoming available, the cost is still so prohibitive that nine in 10 Canadians haven’t made the jump to the same speeds the CRTC said were essential for all to participate meaningfully online in 2017.”

Internet adoption rates have struggled with low-income Canadians, as the gap between online access grows when those without much money have to choose between mobile and home internet.

The average use of mobile data per month has grown 25 per cent to 1.2 GB from the 2015 average of 981 MB. The average home internet usage has grown similarly, up 23.4 per cent to 128.3 GB a month.

The average Canadian home spends $218.42 on communication services with the largest portion—40 per cent—going towards mobile services. Home internet is second at 21 per cent. If these numbers seem high, it’s because over the past four years the CRTC has found that internet prices for both home and mobile have risen and outpaced inflation. Home internet prices grew nearly 10 per cent compared to last year, while mobile prices grew five per cent.

“We’re seeing continued cord-cutting across the country, and a significant increase in data usage — but our telecommunications market has not kept up,” said Anderson. “This government has had two years to improve our communications ecosystem, but we’re yet to see any results.”

Another interesting figure the CRTC shares, though relatively unchanged over the past years, is how much the top five communications companies in Canada control the market. The chart below illustrates how Bell, Quebecor, Rogers, Shaw and TELUS account for 83 per cent of total industry revenues, a one per cent rise from last year.

Chart from the CRTC report.
Chart from the CRTC report.

This newest report comes at a time when two major communications proceedings are about to happen. The first is a review of the WiFi-MVNOs that could lower cell costs for all Canadians, and the second is an examination of the future of broadcasting to look at affordable widespread internet for all of Canada.