Wired Canada 

Canadians as a whole were a little slow catching on to the whole interwebs craze, but lately have surged to make Canada one of the most connected countries in the world.

In 1998, just 34 per cent of Canadians were online and one in 10 had a broadband Internet connection in their home. Cell phones were used by just 30 per cent of Canadians.

In 2006, according to a report by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, 75 per cent of Canadians were regular Internet users, and about 70 per cent of households subscribed to the Internet — 66 per cent to broadband services bundled with cable or telephone plans. More than 19 million of roughly 33 million Canadians now have cell phones, for an adoption rate of almost 60 per cent — still well below the average in some countries, but doubling the rate in a decade is still pretty impressive.

It hasn’t been easy. While the majority of Canadians are concentrated in urban areas — about 80 per cent these days — a significant number of Canadians live in smaller cities and towns that require additional investment to offer broadband connectivity and a far slower payback. The Canadian government is helping out, subsidizing the spread of broadband to the most remote reaches of the country using satellite connections, microwave transmission, and even powerlines when that option exists.

But while a connected country can only be a good thing — all Canadians should have equal and affordable access to the web — the mix of public and private financing for infrastructure, ownership of the private telecommunications companies, and the fact that Canada doesn’t have an express “net neutrality” policy, is going to lead to problems from time to time.

Because the market is so spread out and regulated, telecom companies often have to share the same infrastructure. Companies like Bell, Telus, Rogers, Shaw and others might own pieces of the puzzle, but they are required by law to share those pieces with their competitors. In theory, anyway…

Last week, Bell Canada confirmed plans to throttle certain types of traffic coming through companies using Bell’s infrastructure.

Bell has brought in this practice for their own customers, slowing down things like torrent movie downloads, to allow their other customers to browse the web at normal speeds. Without taking these measures, Internet service providers (ISPs) argue that their services would get bogged down moving information and speeds would slow down across the board.

However, the companies that use Bell’s infrastructure, paying Bell a wholesale rate regulated by the CRTC, are asking Bell not to throttle their traffic in the peak hours from 4:30 p.m. to 2 a.m.

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