Harvard today came out with a 232 page study that confirms what most Canadians already know. Canadians have crappy broadband service:
Canada was 22nd overall out of 30 countries surveyed by Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society. Canada ranked 16th on broadband adoption, 20th on speed and capacity, and 25th on price. Japan, Sweden and South Korea headed up Harvard’s rankings, while the United States placed above Canada at 13th overall.
Canada “is often thought of as a very high performer, based on the most commonly used benchmark of penetration per 100 inhabitants,” the study said. “Because our analysis includes important measures on which Canada has had weaker outcomes — prices, speeds and 3G mobile broadband penetration — in our analysis it shows up as quite a weak performer, overall.”
It also states another fact that Canadian Internet users know all too well. There is no real competition because smaller ISPs don’t have the ability to lease the incumbents communication infrastructure to provide their own service:
“Early aggressive facilities-based competition certainly made Canada an early starter, but it does not seem to have enabled it to maintain its standing,” the report said. “The Canadian experience suggest[s] that reliance purely on competition between strong cable incumbents and telephony incumbents may be insufficient to sustain high penetration or achieve high capacity and low competitive pricing in the long term.”
Canada has taken a “half-hearted” approach to open access, which enables a new entrant company to lease lines from a network owner to provide its own internet services to customers. The CRTC implemented open-access rules in 1997, but the report said the commission messed them up by allowing network owners to charge the highest lease rates in the developed world, about 70 per cent higher than similar fees in South Korea and Denmark.
The rules also had a “sunset” clause, meaning that open access would be discontinued in 2002. The CRTC extended the rules indefinitely in 2001, after few companies took up the offer.
These high rates and “regulatory hesitance” likely contributed to fewer new competitors making investments, the study said. Other countries that have had strong rules have fared better. France, as one example, has very little cable-versus-phone-company competition, yet it ranks well in Harvard’s survey — seventh overall — because of strong enforcement of open-access rules.
Well, I guess all of that blows that study funded by ISPs like Bell, Bell Aliant, Rogers, Cogeco, Telus, Shaw and SaskTel and parroted written by telecommunications consultant Mark Goldberg straight to hell doesn’t it? Goldberg doesn’t think so. In fact he didn’t waste any time blasting this study:
“Preliminary examination seems to indicate that many of the Harvard rankings appear to incorporate the same problematic data points from reports and measurement tools that we have already discussed,” he wrote on his blog.
The only thing that is problematic about the data Mr. Goldberg is that it shows that Canadian ISPs, in particular Bell, Bell Aliant, Rogers, Cogeco, Telus, Shaw and SaskTel have been doing a craptastic job of providing quality Internet access to Canadians. As a result they don’t want anybody to come in and slap them silly for doing so.
It’s high time that the Canadian government grew a pair and forced these ISPs to provide Canada with Internet service that is comparable to the rest of the world. I’d normally say that it’s the job for the above ISPs to do that, but they’re clearly too busy hiding behind studies like the one Mr. Goldberg parroted wrote for them to do that, so it’s up to government to force them to do it.
Lets hope the government does this sooner rather than later because Canadians have waited long enough for world class Internet access.