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Friday, September 8 • 5:15pm - 5:50pm
Complementary Realities: Public Domain Internet Measurements in the Development of Canada's Universal Access Policies

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Internet measurement has become a hot topic in Canada after the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) reclassified both fixed and mobile broadband Internet as a “basic service”. It has set a goal that all Canadians should have access to 50 Mbps download speed by 2020. The CRTC in cooperation with the Federal government intends to reach that goal through new programs to fund broadband development. Given the newfound opportunity for broadband performance metrics to inform public policy, this paper evaluates the potentials and pitfalls of Internet measurement in Canada.

Effective usage of Internet measurement for broadband policy is threatened by:

1. Lack of comparative understanding of Internet measurement platforms: Demand for information about service quality operators deliver has led to the development of a wide variety of methodologies and testbeds that purport to offer a realistic picture of speeds and quality of what is now an essential service. Due to their distinctive methodologies and approaches to aggregating individual connection diagnosis tests, different sources of broadband speed measurements can generate inconsistent results both in terms of absolute performance metrics and in relative terms (e.g. across jurisdictions, operators, etc.). These inconsistencies can lead to confusion for both consumers and policymakers, leading to sub-optimal decisions in terms of operator selection and public policy development.

2. Reliance on marketing and advertising to evaluate performance: Advertised, up-to speeds do not reflect the realities of Internet use and digital divides in Canada. For example, the CRTC has concluded that connections with speeds higher than 50 Mbps are already available to more than 80% of Canadians that live in urban areas of the country. This creates the perception that the problem of universal access is only a rural one. While the CRTC has determined minimum speeds should reflect actual and Quality of Service (QoS) indicators (e.g. latency, packet loss, jitter, etc.), these targets have yet to be adopted in public policy.

To address these concerns, this paper adopts an analytical approach that emphasizes how multiple and potentially inconsistent Internet measurements can be combined to complement each other in helping develop a richer picture of broadband performance. Drawing on prior comparative research, much of it presented at the TPRC, we provide an overview of different approaches to broadband speed measurements and perspectives they offer into Internet infrastructure quality in Canada. Through a review of comparative metrics, we illustrate latency functions as an effective measurement of performance. Finally, through computational analysis of the Measurement Lab data set, we evaluate the level of broadband inequity in Canada and recommend minimum service quality standards in terms of latency.


Fenwick McKelvey

Concordia University

avatar for Reza Rajbiun

Reza Rajbiun

Ryerson University

Friday September 8, 2017 5:15pm - 5:50pm EDT
ASLS Hazel Hall - Room 332

Attendees (4)