Michael Geist explains Canada's screwed-up Internet to the Canadian Senate

JF sez, "Canadian law professor Michael Geist recently appeared before a Canadian Senate committee for a no-holds-barred testimony on the sorry state of Canadian broadband and wireless. The opening statement is a must-read as is the full transcript as Senators from across the country begin to realize just how bad the current situation is."

This is great — open spectrum, net neutrality, surveillance and packet-shaping, the whole shebang, laid out with the legal, economic and ethical arguments:

First, Canada is relatively expensive, ranking fourteenth for monthly subscription costs at $45.65. By comparison, Japan costs $30.46 cents and the U.K. is $30.63. Second, the Canadian Internet is slow, ranking twenty-fourth out of the 30 OECD countries. It is truly a different Internet experience for people in Japan, Korea and France, where the speed allows for applications and opportunities that we do not have. Moreover, Canada lags behind in fibre connections direct to home fibre with 0 per cent penetration, according to the OECD. By comparison, Japan sits at 48 per cent, Korea at 43 per cent, Sweden at 20 per cent and the United States, which has been slow in this area, is at 4 per cent. Third, when you combine speed and pricing, Canada drops to twenty-eighth out of the 30 OECD countries for price per megabyte. In other words, as consumers, we pay more for less — higher prices, slower speeds. Fourth, in addition, Canada is one of only four OECD countries where consumers have no alternative but to take a service with bit caps. That means the service provider caps the amount of bandwidth that the consumer can use each month. In almost every other OECD country, consumers at least have a choice between providers that use bit caps and those that do not.

What can be done about this issue?

We need a firm commitment to universal broadband access akin to the same type of commitment that we once had to universal telephone service. As I say, it is the price of admission for much that the Internet has to offer. All Canadians should have access to reliable, high-speed networks. In addition, we need a strategy for faster networks because it is clear that we cannot rely on our existing networks as we slip further and further behind. This might mean more competition, market-based incentives and potentially community-based networks as local communities take this issue into their own hands.


(Thanks, JF!)