ISP-funded report finds Canadian broadband isn't awful

Geist-48X68.jpgPosted by Michael Geist
Consultants Mark Goldberg and Giganomics released a new report [last week] on the state of Canada's broadband infrastructure. Commissioned by Bell Canada, Bell Aliant, Cogeco, Rogers, SaskTel, Shaw, and Telus, it states as its purpose to "confirm or disprove whether Canada faces a real problem in terms of broadband infrastructure." Given the sources, there is never much doubt that it will conclude that Canada is doing well and that studies that reach a different conclusion must surely be flawed. Indeed, the report claims that "we are a broadband leader, scoring in the top ten or better for most international broadband rankings or measures, despite facing greater geographic challenges than most others."
Yet reading the report, you are hard pressed to find anything resembling a leader. For example, on broadband speed (download only, the report does not address upload speed), it points to reports from ITIF (10th), Akamai (14th), and OECD (25th). On price per Mbps, it cites reports from the OECD (which it argues is flawed, 28th) and ITIF (21st). On broader e-readiness, it points to reports from LECG/NSN (7th), the Economist/IBM (9th), and the ITU (19th). There may be varying definitions of leadership, but I'm pretty sure none would qualify Canada as a leader based on these reports.

When it isn't attacking the methodology of reports where Canada performs poorly, the report tries to rationalize Canada's middling performance. Geography and population density is a favoured explanation (never mind that nearly 50 percent of the Canadian population lives in the ten biggest cities yet fibre to the home is still a rarity here) as are attempts to explain away the leadership in Japan and South Korea (government support ultimately paid for by the public). In what will be news to many communities without broadband, the report claims that there is universal availability if satellite is factored into the mix (those claiming that satellite is an effective substitute for fibre, DSL, or cable should be required to use it). Missing from the report is much discussion on the pervasive use of bit-caps and throttling in Canada.
Ultimately, I'm not convinced the report will have much of an impact. Telling Canadian consumers how great their throttled, bit-capped, relatively slow broadband service is is not likely to gain much traction. Meanwhile, Industry Minister Tony Clement has set a target of being the number one digital country in the world and is unlikely to be impressed with leadership claims based on data that at best does little more than suggest that Canada isn't awful when it comes to broadband infrastructure.

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