Another day, another study showing Canada sucks as far as telecommunications is concerned. Wait a minute… I used that same opening last week. Why is this becoming a habit? Maybe because it’s true?
The Organization for Economic Co-operation has released its latest broadband comparison numbers and – surprise, surprise – Canada continues to slide on the international stage in just about every measure. In the key ranking of fixed “penetration,” which is ultimately a measure of how many people in a country are willing and able to pay for a wired broadband connection, Canada continues its descent into mediocrity by placing 12th out of 31 countries (table 1d). Only three years ago, Canada was hanging on to the top 10, while a decade ago the country was sitting pretty atop the rankings. At this rate, it’ll only be a few years before we’re slumming it at the bottom with the Mexicans and the Turkish.
Things are worse on the wireless side. Despite all the bragging by wireless carriers about how they have some of the most advanced networks in the world, Canada sits near the bottom – at 22nd – in terms of wireless broadband subscribers (same table as above).
As Michael Geist noted the other day, things are also pretty woeful on the pricing side: Canada ranks 28th out of the 33 countries for which there is data.
Of particular note, given all the recent drama about usage-based billing, is table 5j, which shows the prevalence of bit caps – or monthly usage limits – across the developed world. The OECD studied available broadband plans and found unlimited service was impossible to get from major ISPs in only four countries: Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Iceland.
One of those things is not like the others… as in three of those four countries are fairly isolated islands far removed from other large land masses and are considerably more limited in their bandwidth options. The other country is right next door to the world’s biggest internet economy and is flush with bandwidth connectivity. Guess which is which?
Moreover, 21 of the OECD countries have no explicit bit caps. Translation: unlimited internet usage is common in every developed country that isn’t way out in the ocean. And Canada.
Are there flaws with the OECD statistics? You betcha. The United States, for example, is counted among those countries with unlimited usage despite the fact that Comcast, one of its larger ISPs, has had caps of 250 gigabytes for some time now. Perhaps OECD statisticians count 250 GB as pretty much unlimited? Who knows? The point is, even with a liberal margin of error, Canada doesn’t look too good.
If alien visitors from another galaxy were to judge Earth’s geography based solely on broadband stats, they would have to assume that Canada floats out in the middle of the ocean somewhere. Too bad it’s not as warm here as it is in Australia and New Zealand.
Peter Nowak is an award-winning journalist and author of the best-selling book Sex, Bombs and Burgers. He has been a staff writer for the CBC, National Post and New Zealand Herald, while his work has appeared in the Boston Globe, South China Morning Post, Sydney Morning Herald and the Globe and Mail, among others. His personal blog can be found at www.wordsbynowak.com.