Canada us­ing more data, CRTC finds

Crit­ics say Cana­di­ans are pay­ing more than ever for broad­band, de­clared a ba­sic ser­vice last year

Toronto Star - - BUSINESS - TERRY PEDWELL THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

GATINEAU, QUE.— The coun­try’s tele­com reg­u­la­tor says Cana­di­ans are de­mand­ing more, and faster, in­ter­net ac­cess, es­pe­cially on mo­bile de­vices.

But crit­ics com­plain that broad­band speeds are not keep­ing up with that de­mand and it’s get­ting much more ex­pen­sive to go on­line.

In its an­nual com­mu­ni­ca­tions mon­i­tor­ing re­port, the CRTC says there were three mil­lion more mo­bile broad­band sub­scrip­tions taken out by Cana­di­ans in 2016 com­pared with the pre­vi­ous year, a 13.3-per-cent in­crease.

And the reg­u­la­tor says Cana­di­ans used an av­er­age of1.2 gi­ga­bytes of data a month on their wire­less de­vices, a 25-per-cent hike from 2015.

Av­er­age monthly con­sump­tion of data us­ing home in­ter­net con­nec­tions was also up by more than 23 per cent in 2016 com­pared with the pre­vi­ous year, reach­ing 128.3 gi­ga­bytes, the re­port said.

The CRTC said that, over the last five years, monthly data used by Cana­di­ans in­creased by an av­er­age of 40 per cent an­nu­ally. CRTC chair Ian Scott says the reg­u­la­tor is work­ing with the in­dus­try and con­sumers to en­sure greater ac­cess.

“As the in­dus­try con­tin­ues to in­vest in their net­works to meet cur­rent and fu­ture de­mands, the CRTC is es­tab­lish­ing a fund to im­prove broad­band ac­cess in re­mote and ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties,” Scott said in a state­ment ac­com­pa­ny­ing the re­port.

But broad­band ad­vo­cacy group OpenMe­dia notes that nine out of 10 Cana­di­ans still haven’t sub­scribed to what the reg­u­la­tor con­sid­ers “ba­sic” in­ter­net ser­vice.

“It’s been al­most a year since high­speed in­ter­net was de­clared a ba­sic ser­vice in Canada, but we are still far from this be­ing a re­al­ity for the ma­jor­ity of Cana­di­ans,” said Katy An­der­son, OpenMe­dia’s dig­i­tal-rights ad­vo­cate.

“We’re see­ing con­tin­ued cord­cut­ting across the coun­try and a sig­nif­i­cant in­crease in data us­age — but our telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions mar­ket has not kept up,” An­der­son added, say­ing Cana­di­ans also face higher broad­band prices than in many other coun­tries, as well as caps on data use.

The CRTC last year de­clared high­speed broad­band — with speeds of10 megabits per se­cond (Mbps) for up­load, and 50 Mbps for down­load — as a ba­sic stan­dard of ser­vice. The tar­get date for reach­ing that goal was set at 2020. It also compelled telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions providers to pay $750 mil­lion over five years to build broad­band in­fras­truc­ture in ru­ral and re­mote ar­eas.

But higher speeds and more data us­age has come at a price, with the av­er­age house­hold was spend­ing $218.42 a month on com­mu­ni­ca­tions ser­vices in 2015, a 1.7-per-cent in­crease over the pre­vi­ous year, the CRTC said.

Most of the monthly bill, 40 per cent, was spent on mo­bile de­vices, while 25 per cent went for TV ser­vices and 21 per cent for in­ter­net.

Just 14 per cent went to tele­phone ser­vices.

The monthly con­sump­tion of data us­ing home in­ter­net was up by more than 23 per cent in 2016, the CRTC re­port said.

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