We’re getting better in broadband. Or are we?

Another day another broadband study. The latest, funded by Cisco Systems Inc. and conducted by Oxford University’s Said School of Business, attempts to go beyond comparing speeds by measuring something called the “broadband quality” in 72 countries.

For the record, we’re 15th in something called broadband leadership, but 10th in mobile. But I’ll get to that in a minute.

I have a lot of trouble with vendor-funded research in general, because there’s an interest in the outcome. Broadband studies in particular also suffer because statistics used vary from country to country, despite international organizations that try to encourage standardization of data. Then there’s the arbitrary points system to give weight to various categories of data.

The Said report conjures up another standard: the number of countries ready to adopt the “Internet technologies of tomorrow.”

But if you accept the Said methodology, once again Canada is not in their top 10 list of of most categories it measured between May and June of this year, when the study was done. We’re 15th (along with the U.S., France and Slovakia) on the list of broadband leaders, up from 17th the year before, with 93 points. Tenth place Denmark had 102 points.

On speed alone, though, the average download throughput of the countries studied was 33.5 Mbps, and the average upload throughput is 17 Mbps. How'd we do? The study says, our average is 6.1 Mbps down and 716 kbps up. (This test was done by analyzing the results of users who tested their computers on the speed.net Web site)

Our biggest cities couldn't even make the list of the 38 municipalities with the broadband quality to become “smart and connected.” Once again we’re not in the same league as Paris , New York, Tokyo, Seoul – or Riga, or Uppsala. (That’s OK, I suppose. NYC was the only North American city on that list). In Wi-Fi broadband quality we rank 25th.

But we are 10th in mobile broadband.

By comparison, in the latest Connectivity Scorecard — overseen by Leonard Waverman of the University of Calgary's business school and sponsored by telecom equipment maker Nokia Siements Networks (NSN) — Canada ranked ninth among “innovative nations,” a drop of two places. Note, though, that this report looks at consumer, business and government investment in infomation and communications technologies.

Overall, these studies show we’re not doing too badly. Our biggest wireless carriers just built HSPA+ networks, they’re testing LTE, the phone companies are plowing hundreds of millions into fibre optic (although threatening that their pace will depend on a CRTC ruling), in Quebec City you can buy cable Internet that reaches up to 120Mbps and Ottawa is chipping in around $270 million over several years to help spread broadband to rural areas.

It’s true Canada is a huge country with wide swaths of empty land between urban centres, which makes it hard to bring economies of scale to building networks.

Still, I’d be happier if the boards of our leading telecom companies said their goal is to put us in the top 10 broadband rankings, no matter how they’re measured.

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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 ITWorldCanada.com and Computing Canada. An IT journalist since 1997, I've written for several of ITWC's sister publications including ITBusiness.ca 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 [@] soloreporter.com

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