In response to poor results in recent OECD tables and a number of other benchmarks, Canadian telcos and cablecos have fought back by commissioning a “study” to respond to criticisms about the (in my view abysmal) state of the Canadian broadband market. The author concludes “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”.
Sadly, it seems only he agrees. In my role at Tucows I have the pleasure of traveling all over the world and having customers who are service providers all over the world. We are always discussing access markets. I could bore you with story after story but very few countries have slower, more expensive access offering than us in Canada. A fantastic study done for the FCC by the Berkman Center for Internet Studies at Harvard is just the most recent to confirm the sad state of broadband in Canada.
It is not that the author is incorrect, rather he is misleading and the document is more of a telco/cableco marketing document than a study. I will identify some specific criticisms.
First, and most importantly, is the definition of “broadband” which sets the benchmark from which all measurement and conclusion flows. The “study” uses 1.5mbs as its threshold. 1.5mbps! I believe this was the launch speed for Bell Canada’s dsl service in 1998. 1.5mbps as “broadband” borders on nostalgic. This, more than anything else, takes this from “study” to “attempt at persuasion”.
It is as if we were talking about hunger and debating how many Canadians are starving. I, and many others, are lamenting how hungry we are. We are complaining that in a country like Canada we should be eating MUCH better. Eating is important for health and innovation and jobs. And the telcos and cablecos have produced a “study” that assures us that we are in great shape. That in fact the whole country has access to a bowl of gruel every day. That we should be celebrating our leadership, not lamenting our laggard status. That we have healthy, competitive markets that are doing just fine thank you very much.
My second complaint is in the $/mbps analysis wherein the author concludes that we are not nearly as bad as other studies indicate. He uses as his sole basis for the analysis a Videotron service that is $80/mo for 50mbps. First, he ignores that this service is very limited in coverage and that a similar service from Rogers is $125/mo. Second, he lauds the fact that this moves us from 28th to 8th on the world tables. Never mind that this is only for OECD countries and that there are dozens of non-OECD countries who have far superior offerings. But 28th to 8th? It is like watching CBC coverage of Canadian athletes in the summer Olympics! “Just look at that top ten finish!”. Last, and most importantly, it completely ignores upstream bandwidth.
Rogers recently launched a 50mbps service to limited areas in Toronto. It is only “up to 2mbps” upstream! Quick story. My son (11) spent last weekend hard at work on a video for a charity project that his class was engaged in. After many hours and missing much of the weekend’s fun he finished his slightly over 3-minute video which naturally included some video clips that were HD. To upload that video to Vimeo took three tries and 45 minutes (and this was after failing to upload on a couple tries to youtube due to ?). Total time spent on the upload was well over two hours. AND, worst of all, after finishing we were obviously placed in to some kind of copyright-infringing bandwidth hogging penalty box at Rogers and the Internet basically crapped out and took some waiting and a number of router reboots to return to normal.
What parent wouldn’t want their son spending hours on the weekend filming, editing, doing voiceovers, poking at software to make a video FOR SCHOOL. FOR CHARITY! sadly, the current Canadian broadband market not only discourages, but punishes this behavior.
I want, and there is no reason we cannot have, at least 100mbs full symmetrical bandwidth. It is a global competitive imperative. Telcos, Cablecos, I do not want your lousy bowl of 1.5mbps gruel. Please sir, may I have some more?