Oxford Study Ranks Canada 27th in Broadband Quality

Via the CBC, a study from the Oxford Business School in London comparing global Internet speeds and response times claims that Canada is lagging behind and woefully prepared for future demand. This is strange news to me as I use the Canadian Internets to research and write this post with no unacceptable delays. Canada ranked 27th out of 42 nations, with the United States in 16th. Their standard of acceptable speed is 3.75 Mb download, 1 Mb upload, and latency less than 95 ms. This defined standard may be slightly above the average Canadian broadband connection, but likely only in upload speed, which is usually restricted more on home connections.

I find two faults with the results of this study. First, they say to have used results collected from speedtest.net. Speedtest is a reliable site for what it does, but people most often run speed tests when their connection is acting abnormally, so there’s a fair chance that such results would be lower than a true average. Second, the top ranking “broadband quality” countries on the list were Japan, Sweden, Netherlands, Latvia, Korea, and Switzerland. These countries have between 10-100x higher population density than Canada. The vast size of the great white north introduces challenges for our internet service providers in deploying infrastructure. Ranking below Canada were countries like India and China that, while have high population density, have to deal with aged infrastructure and a much larger population to service.

What’s that last line? Ohh, the study was sponsored by Cisco, the world’s leading provider of networking hardware, the company with the most to gain from the expansion of Internet infrastructure.

It’s a fact that Canada’s broadband speeds lag behind other developed countries, but are we being held back because it isn’t fast enough? I don’t see how. I agree that Canada’s ISPs will have to step up upgrading infrastructure to keep up with future demand and expand access to rural communities, but I think they’ll manage. After all, their wireless divisions are the most profitable in the developed world. The spread of broadband has opened competition for television and phone service, and these previously entrenched monopolies have found themselves in a much more competitive space. The time for resting on their laurels has passed.