High-speed Internet in Canada and the United States
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High-speed Internet in Canada and the United States

Edmonton : Canada | Jul 04, 2012 at 1:37 AM PDT
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Although previously a leader in the field, Canada's ranking in high speed internet penetration has been slipping constantly for the past ten years. The report, prepared by the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), ranks 34 member countries. Canada is ranked 13th of 34 member countries. Interestingly enough the U.S. ranks 15th with only 27.3% penetration.

When it comes to wireless connections, Canada fares far worse. With only 31.8% of Canadians with wireless access, the country ranks 26th.

Even when there is access in rural areas, in my case, only 1 hour from Edmonton, the situation can be frustrating. Satellite access has been, until now, based on a fair access rule of 250 MB per 24 hour period. Exceeding that limit results in having your internet access, for all intends and purposes, revoked for 24 hours. Additional problems include getting service in situation if equipment fails. With satellite service the author waited 14 days for the replacement of a modem a year ago. It is not just a straight exchange, since the satellite dish requires realignment or synchronization.

Satellite access has also been slower than internet provided by the 3G/4G wireless networks, since downloads are send in packets.

Last November, when the satellite provider had problems with Hughes modems, the system went down for four hours. When the system the system returned, this users modem did not receive the signals. Upon query, the technicians determined that the modem may have to be replaced. "Oh no, not a another two weeks." It was then determined, since the user's warranty had run out, the service call and replacement equipment would be charged to the client. Really?

With the daily download limit on satellite (250MB), the user had already obtained a USB wireless access air card as a backup for the satellite service. Since there had never been any problems of access, the satellite service was cancelled and I decided to go on a plan with a wireless hub/router. On a flex plan this would provide up to 10 GB of data monthly with a maximum cost of $70. In the long run this was cheaper than the aircard, which was $35 a month on a flex plan for up to 3GB and 25c per MB thereafter.

From the end of November last year until March 2012 I had never experienced any access problems. This changed on March 23rd. After multiple calls to the provider (Telus) and exchange of equipment twice, it was determined by the providers' technicians that the problem was most likely a traffic congestion problem, i.e. too many users for the capability of the tower. According to the provider there is no immediate resolution and any improvement to the service could take up to a year. In 2012, where the internet is no longer a luxury, but an essential service to provide communications needs, on line banking and a source of information research, this is not acceptable.

On Friday another venture will be embarked on. A smaller provider with a tower six miles from my location will check the signal and install the service, which appears to be working well for one of the neighbours.

Incidentally this area still has analogue phone lines, which provide internet access at a speed of 28.8 KBs. Modern, eh? Welcome to rural Canada.


Canada and the US should be in the forefront of internet access and not lag behind other nations. Federal and State/Provincial governments should put pressure on internet providers to ensure that affordable high speed internet access is available to most people. The internet is no longer a luxury.

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High Speed Internet
High speed internet, readily availablet to urband dwellers still evades rural Canadians
Karl Gotthardt is based in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, and is an Anchor on Allvoices.
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