Canadian broadband ranking debate gets another weapon

The country's big three Internet carriers have complained for some time that they get a raw deal from studies suggesting Canadians aren't getting good value from its Internet providers. Now Rogers Communications Inc. is waving a study it paid for as evidence the carriers do better than experts say — at least for fixed broadband.
Authored by the Montreal telecommunications consultantcy LeMay-Yates Associates Inc., the study in particular takes a swipe at the reports by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
The OECD report and others are used as weapons at regulatory hearings and before Parliament to show more competition is needed in the industry.
In its most recent report, covering 2010, the OCED ranked Canada 25th in the cost of a megabyte of data and 23rd in speeds offered by carriers — based on advertised speeds. LeMay-Yates calculates Canada ranked 12th in cost and 15th in average speed —  using a different method of calcuation. It took the results of Internet subscriber tests on the Web site, letting it claim it used speeds users are likely to see. To get an average, it also weighed the numbers by the market share of Internet service providers to even things out (for example, an ISP may only cover a small area).
I won't get into the details of the methodology, except to say any study has to make some guesses and massage some numbers to make measurements meaningful. LeMay-Yates, for example, tries to factor in the possibility that people who have really fast Internet service might run Speedtest more than others. Or maybe it's the other way around. That's one of the problems with using Speedtest.
The fact is download speeds can vary for a number of reasons, and there are always bundles and special pricing that affects the cost per megabit. And in the past 12 months the country's cable and telco carriers have been pushing speeds faster, so almost any study is out of date by the time it's published.
Note that the CRTC in its latest Communications Report used speed figures from Akamai to show Canada ranked second out of eight large countries in average fixed broadband speeds in 2010, and, using advertised speeds, we were third out of six countries in average price per month for Internet service with speeds of between 10 and 20 Mbps in 2010
Still, I'm not moved by a study that says we're not as bad as some say. That's not reassuring.
The latest OECD report is here.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada
Howard Solomon
Howard Solomon
Currently a freelance writer, I'm the former editor of and Computing Canada. An IT journalist since 1997, I've written for several of ITWC's sister publications including and Computer Dealer News. Before that I was a staff reporter at the Calgary Herald and the Brampton (Ont.) Daily Times. I can be reached at hsolomon [@]

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