Report shows disparity between urban, rural broadband

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NORTH BAY – A report released by Blue Sky Net, ‘The Speed of Northern Ontario Broadband’ (from collected data from historical speed tests), shows that the findings are consistent with other reports issued previously—there is a disparity between urban and rural connections, as well as an overall average of test results being below federal government objectives.

“Essentially, we did the study and collected the speed tests; we wanted to take the numbers and what true speeds everyone in Northern Ontario is dealing with in terms of broadband,” said Susan Church, executive director of Blue Sky Net, last Friday. “To see what people are getting in terms of broadband speeds, so when we apply to government funders we can show them we need this support in Northern Ontario.”

It is pointed out in a release, “many residents throughout rural Canada have limited access to affordable high-speed internet. It has never been so evident as during the COVID-19 crisis. This is mainly because the investment needed to install and operate internet infrastructure is expensive, and there is uncertainty with telecommunications providers’ ability to return that investment. Over the past number of years, Blue Sky Net has led a partnership with FedNor, other information communication technology networks (ICTN’s) and area telecommunication service providers (TSPs) to create a visual database of all coverage in Northern Ontario and can provide a spatial view of where internet is, where it isn’t and what speeds it is delivered at.”

Blue Sky Net, based in North Bay, has created a geographic information system (GIS_ map as part of its ongoing technology development initiatives. One of the many features of the public portal includes a high-speed service availability checker where visitors can search their street address to see which TSP delivers connectivity to their cottage, home or office. Additionally, ConnectedNorth.ca has over the last five years collected speed test data retrieved from that portal. 

“Recently, Blue Sky Net has partnered with CIRA’s internet performance test to collect the most detailed information relating to Northern Ontario’s internet speeds,” the release notes. “When you take this test, users are helping to support applications to funding agencies such as the CRTC, the Universal Broadband Fund and the provincial broadband fund. We use the information about speeds at the property level to show the need and the impact improved broadband infrastructure will have.”

Speed tests are typically run by internet users that are dissatisfied with their service. Aggregate results per community do not necessarily reflect the overall average of internet connections for every user within that community.

The Blue Sky Net release explained, “key findings of the study show that 4,330 speed tests were run in Northern Ontario over five years. The average download speed was just under 9 Mbps and uploads is 5 Mbps. When excluding tests run from within the major urban communities (such as Sudbury, Sault Ste. Marie and North Bay) the average speeds dropped to 7.2/3 Mbps. Urban community averages are 21.88/20.29 Mbps.”

“Not all internet services are created equal,” said Ms. Church. “Fibre is heads and tails the fastest, but only available to the largest population centres.” She pointed out the interactive map in the report demonstrates the disparity between urban and rural connections. 

Viewers of the report are urged to continue taking speed tests at their locations by visiting ic.gc.ca/eic/site/139.nsf/eng/home. Results of these tests will go directly to the government department of Industry Canada where speed test data is analyzed for use with funding programs, noted Ms. Church.

The interactive report and a downloadable pdf format are available online and can be found at: ConnectedNorth.ca/speed-test-report.