Over this past year, it’s no question that the pandemic has impacted the ways we work, learn and communicate. To provide a window into how the pandemic has affected our digital lives, CIRA recently released its 2021 Internet Factbook, brimming with insights around Canadians’ internet use and what experiences will be like as we “return to normal.”
When it comes to our eventual post-pandemic life, one thing is clear: some of the new digital habits and behaviours we’ve adopted this past year are here to stay. It’s also evident that gaps in internet access across the country will continue to make it difficult for some Canadians to learn, work, get help, connect with others and do business online.
Test proves valuable for many Canadians
Since the start of the pandemic, CIRA’s Internet Performance Test (IPT) has skyrocketed in popularity. More than 330,000 tests were run in the last year:
Tens of thousands of Canadians struggling with internet challenges flocked to performance.cira.ca to find out exactly what internet speed they get and whether it matched with what their plans promised.
Media used CIRA’s IPT reports on the urban-rural digital divide to raise awareness in their coverage of the dramatic variations in internet access and quality across the country.
Maclean’s magazine used IPT data to inform their annual “Best places to live” index given the elevated importance of internet connectivity for people working remotely.
Perhaps the biggest development for the IPT has been the increased attention that governments have given to IPT data to the serious gaps in internet connectivity that persist across Canada.
Governments using CIRA’s IPT data
Since the pandemic began, CIRA has started using the IPT in our work with provincial, regional and municipal governments, as well as other organizations managing infrastructure projects. Our project partners tell us the test is valuable in two ways – showing the current state of local connectivity and helping ensure new projects provide promised speeds over time.
A neutral view of current state
Much of the current mapping on the state of the internet in Canada is self-reported by Canada’s internet service providers (ISPs). As a result, users and elected officials have raised concerns that the lived experience of Canadians is not reflected. CIRA’s IPT has been selected by governments at every level nationwide to provide an alternate perspective.
In Alberta, the community of Sturgeon County has long been advocating that existing ISP maps showing 50/10 internet are incorrect. While those maps excluded the county from receiving the federal government’s Universal Broadband Fund investments, the local government is now working with CIRA to gather neutral data to provide a reality check on ISP-submitted maps. Hopefully, this shows the government the county is eligible for future government funding to help them fully participate in the digital economy.