Broadband data for Toronto: more bad news and getting worse

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Polpo, Soho, London W1 – Aug 2013

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naf-1Yesterday, the Open Technology Institute, an initiative of the New America Foundation, released the 2013 version of its study, The Cost of Connectivity. Once again, Canada looks really bad in the rankings. And not just bad for 2013, but even worse than in 2012. (I wrote about the 2012 results last November in this post. I’ve uploaded the 2012 report here and the 2013 report here, both in pdf.)

Here’s the setup for the just-published report from this gang of lefties:

“Last year, the New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute published The Cost of Connectivity, a first-of-its-kind study of the cost of consumer broadband services in 22 cities around the world. The results showed that, in comparison to their international peers, Americans in major cities such as New York, Los Angeles, and Washington, DC are paying higher prices for slower Internet service. While the plans and prices have been updated in the intervening year, the 2013 data shows little progress, reflecting remarkably similar trends to what we observed in 2012 (my emphasis).

The statement in bold is about US cities, but it applies in spades to Canada as well. Let’s keep this short and simple, using one metric: the speed leaders in the 22 cities the researchers have put under scrutiny.The table immediately below (Table 3) is from p.7 of the 2012 report. You’ll notice the Canadian entry, Toronto, ranks 9th out of the 22 locales. Mediocre, as ever. But look a little more closely (sorry about the poor resolution)…

speed-leaders-2012It’s the data caps, stupid.

The real standout here is in the right-hand column, where the data caps are listed. Let’s group them:

  • No data available: 5 cities
  • No caps at all: 12 cities
  • Unspecified penalty: 1 city
  • Explicit cap: 4 cities

Not only is Toronto in the 4-city caps group, represented by Bell. It also ties for the lowest cap (with Comcast), at 300 gigs for their 175 Mbps service – the cap I get from TekSavvy for my 25 meg service. That makes for a ridiculous burn rate; and the near-absence of caps internationally is another embarrassment for the CRTC. Everyone knows caps serve no practical purpose, except for the price-gouging. Why does the Commission continue to ignore this problem, which it made part of our alleged “network neutrality” framework?

But wait, it gets worse. In the next table, below, we have the comparable figures for 2013. These show, first of all, that Toronto has fallen from 9th place to 15th this year…

speed-leaders-2013

The authors point out one salient fact about changes from 2012: “Prices and offerings have remained static in a few international cities, but in those cases, we found that there are fewer data caps in 2013 than there were in 2012.” But not in Canada! Here’s the 2013 lineup:

  • No data available: 4 cities
  • No caps at all: 16 cities (up from 12)
  • Throttle: 1 city
  • Explicit cap: 3 cities (down from 4)

This time it’s Rogers that wins the international contest for most punitive cap: 500 gigs, with the other two cities way over Rogers at 2.5 TB (Stofa) and 10 TB (Lafayette). Yes, that would be terabytes, in a whole other league.

stop-the-capFrom the Stop the Cap! website

Note to Chairman Blais: I’ve said it before and I’m going to keep saying it. That was a wonderful launch to the TV proceeding last week. But if the incumbents are allowed to keep punishing their customers using unregulated data caps, those caps will prove the undoing of any new TV policy, especially one founded on the goal of expanded consumer choice – no matter what other safeguards are put in place (I’ll continue to explain this point in part 2 of the series I began last time).

D.E.