It’s not just you: CIRA study discovers low Internet speeds across Canada

The Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA) has released a new report that breaks down the speed and quality of the country’s national, provincial, and municipal Internet connections – and to put it lightly, we can do better.

Average download speeds across Canada. Source: CIRA

To start with, the average Canadian’s download speed is 18.64 Mbps – well below the 25 Mbps cited by CIRA as an industry ideal and, the organization said, in line with content delivery network and cloud services provider Akamai Technologies, Inc.’s most recent State of the Internet report, in which Canada’s average connection speed was calculated to be 13.1 Mbps, placing it at number 30 in global rankings.

But that’s an average, and the truth is that unless you live in New Brunswick, or the right part of Toronto, Ottawa, or Montreal, chances are good your Internet download speed is below average: residents of Vancouver, Victoria, Surrey, Edmonton, Winnipeg, and Regina all have valid reasons to be annoyed at their service providers, as their cities landed in the bottom half of CIRA’s Canadian city rankings.

The organization also found that a city’s core and suburbs could often have significantly different download speeds.

Speed _ a comparison of upload and download speeds against the national average
Average download and upload speeds of 25 Canadian cities. The further towards the upper-right, the better. Source: CIRA

Meanwhile, rural and northern communities had an average download speed of 14.81 Mbps, which sounds relatively high but is 24 per cent behind the national urban average and, CIRA noted, dominated by Yellowknife, where access is generally much stronger than elsewhere in the Northwest Territories, Nunavut, and the Yukon (where the average download speed was 6.68 Mbps, the lowest in Canada).

urban vs rural
Average download speeds in Canada’s urban locations vs. rural, by province. Source: CIRA

More importantly, the quality of a user’s Internet experience depends on far more than simply download speeds: the country’s average upload speed was 7.26 Mbps, according to CIRA’s data.

“As more users shift from passive consumers to active producers of content, Canadian Internet users should be sure to pay attention to the upload speeds in their community,” the organization’s researchers said. “The use of cloud-based back-up (like Google Drive or OneDrive) and video sharing services (like Periscope or YouTube) require significant upload bandwidth.”

When the organization added a quality metric by measuring ping (the round-trip speed for a packet of information) and jitter (the variation in time that it takes for a series of packets to arrive), the results often looked worse, though the country’s average ping speed was an excellent 96 milliseconds (ms), while its average jitter time was 304.66 ms.

Rural communities were more likely to experience quality issues such as higher ping and jitter, and among the cities measured, only Gatineau, Quebec; Longueuil, Quebec; Victoria, B.C.; and Saint John, New Brunswick had average jitter times below 200.

In a statement, CIRA president and CEO Byron Holland said the organization launched its performance test to educate Canadians, policymakers, and organizations about the strength of the country’s Internet access, and that he hoped the results would lead to future improvements.

“There is a growing national consensus in Canada that access to fast, reliable and affordable Internet service is not only critical to economic development, but also represents an important social good,” the report said. “Understanding how Canadian users experience services in their homes and offices is an important first step in improving Canada’s Internet performance.”

CIRA generated its data from 126,000 tests submitted by individual Canadian Internet users. Readers interested in learning how their own connection measures up to the national average – and adding to CIRA’s numbers – can test their connection’s performance here.

The organization’s 2016 Internet service report can be downloaded here.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Eric Emin Wood
Eric Emin Wood
Former editor of turned consultant with public relations firm Porter Novelli. When not writing for the tech industry enjoys photography, movies, travelling, the Oxford comma, and will talk your ear off about animation if you give him an opening.

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