Canada ranks 9th for quality, availability & cost of internet

A study from UK’s BroadbandChoices ranks Canada number 9 of 164 countries for quality, availability & cost of internet, up 7 positions from last year.

But you wouldn’t necessarily know that from reading Canadian telecom newsletters. It isn’t easy to conduct such studies and maybe it is just as tough to sort through the headlines to report on what is going on. Unfortunately, MobileSyrup took another recent broadband report and torqued the conclusions. MobileSyrup writes “Canada takes 103rd place in study examining worldwide broadband cost”. The headline doesn’t properly reflect the actual study, which didn’t compare worldwide broadband costs, it compared lifetime broadband costs around the world.

I don’t think it takes an advanced degree in statistics to be able to sort through the numbers, but since I do happen to have those credentials, let me provide a different perspective on the same source documents. Comparing lifetime broadband costs would mean that a country with high monthly broadband prices but short life expectancy would rank “better” than a country with lower prices but longer life expectancy. But that isn’t how this study was done. Instead, all MoneySupermarket did was take monthly broadband prices from a different study – the Internet Accessibility Index – and multiply it out by the worldwide average life expectancy of 72.6 years.

There were no adjustments for household size – fixed internet is shared by everyone in the household; no adjustment for age at which people start their own household – if the life expectancy is 72 years, a person doesn’t start paying for their own fixed broadband until they move out. And, as I mentioned, no adjustment for variations in life expectancy.

So in reality, the study is simply looking at monthly broadband prices and multiplying by a constant, 871.2 (12 months times 72.6 years), in order to grab some clicks. The table also looks at average median income and looks at monthly broadband costs as a percentage of income.

Bhutan ranked first in these rankings of raw broadband prices, but the report also shows that its US$10 monthly broadband price represented more than 4% of average income. Canada raked 109 in this report, but broadband is reported to be just 2.24% of income. The residents of which country are better off?

I will note that I am not able to reconcile the incomes used in the MoneySupermarket report. As a result, it isn’t clear that the study is using household income versus individual income.

But let’s go back to the original study upon which I based my headline: Canada ranks 9th out of 164 countries for quality, availability & cost according to the 2022 Internet Accessibility Index. That is an improvement from a 16th place in 2021.

That should have been celebrated.

By the way, Bhutan – ranked lowest in lifetime broadband cost – ranked 115th in the Accessibility Index, with download speeds rated at just 3.3 Mbps.

I have had problems with MobileSyrup reporting on international pricing studies in the past. In this instance, the Internet Accessibility Index was referenced as the source for prices by the authors of the lifetime cost study. Wouldn’t that have been reasonable context for MobileSyrup readers?

International comparisons are very difficult to get right, but we should question why it seems only those studies portraying Canada in a negative way are considered newsworthy.

Maybe headlines shining a positive light on Canadian telecom would be seen as click-bait? (Not this article, of course.)

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