‹ Infrastructure

The digital divide

February 17, 2014

Blogger Peter Nowak published a map showing Canada’s Internet upload speeds compared to various third world and smaller countries.  Canada’s national upload speed average of 5.2 Megabits per second ranks poorly at 53rd overall in the world. The north has the slowest speeds and lacks terrestrial infrastructure.

The global average of 7.5 Mbps and the G8 average of 8.7 Mbps.

In Canada north of 60 (and on northernmost BC) Northwestel, has had been charged with servicing 40 per cent of Canada’s land mass, but just 0.3 per cent of the population. That makes providing telecom services more difficult – and more expensive – no matter who is doing it. Northwestel proposed a $273-million five-year modernization plan that would have seen much of its aging infrastructure updated and improved. The company planned to roll out 3G or 4G wireless in the 96 communities it serves and upgrade 79 of those to have wired Internet download speeds of at least five megabits per second.

The Harper government announced that new funding of $305M in the budget for expansion of broadband in Canada’s north and rural areas, a new report says that it’s hundreds of millions of dollars short of what’s actually needed to get them connected. According to a study released on budget day by Nordicity, a telecom consulting firm that outlined four options for extending service. The cheapest would be an upgrade to existing infrastructure; the most expensive a full network upgrade.

The internet household penetration rate in Nunavut is 59 per cent — about 20 percentage points lower than the Canadian average. Nunavut has no terrestrial network—all its telecom transport is via (expensive) satellite.

Alaska’s upload average is 2.4 Mbps (according to Alaska Communications, the largest ISP). More remote communities and people off the grid rely on Hughesnet, a satellite based ISP.


The north has huge geography but few people. The societal challenge is to provide incentives for investments to be made in northern infrastructure by service providers. Northwestel has invested close to $1B in capital infrastructure since its incorporation in 1979, yet many deem this investment inadequate. Now days consumers want lots of bandwidth for low cost—a totally understandable desire. The regulatory and funding regimes have not kept up with modern times, just as the need for investment has been greatly underestimated.



Source: Ookia Net Index 14-Feb-2014.