What you should know about Internet speeds

The speed of your Internet connection plays an important role in determining how effective and enjoyable the Internet experience is for you and your family.

If you click a link on a web page and then have to wait a long amount of time for the new page to appear, or if a video you are watching stutters and stops, it can be frustrating. It can raise questions like:

What Internet speeds am I getting?

Internet speeds are typically defined in terms of megabits per second (Mbps) for downloading and uploading data:

  • Download speed. The speed at which data, including files, web sites, pictures, music, and movies, is being delivered to you from the Internet
  • Upload speed. The speed at which data is traveling from you to the Internet

Internet service providers (ISPs) often differentiate themselves by advertising different prices for Internet speeds.

Typically, you have a range of plans to choose from. You pay more for higher-speed Internet connections than lower-speed ones.

There are tools on the Internet for measuring your current Internet speeds. Your Internet provider probably has one on their website that you can use to determine your speeds.

Ever wondered how well your Internet service performs? We’re measuring the speeds and other characteristics of broadband Internet services to Canadian homes, and you’re invited to participate. Learn more about the broadband measurement project and find out how your Internet service measures up.

What affects my Internet speeds?

The download and upload speeds of your plan are important factors in determining your actual Internet speeds. But they are not the only ones.

Factors inside your home

The package you’ve chosen with your provider identifies the speeds of the Internet service from the provider to your doorstep. They are often advertised as “up to” a specified Mbps. But there are several factors that can slow the speeds, including:

  • Your computer. Is it new and fast, or an older computer struggling to keep us with the demands of new applications?
  • Your modem. This is the device that converts the data travelling on the phone, cable or fibre line into a form that your computer can use. Is your modem capable of handling today’s higher speeds? Older ones may not be capable.
  • Your wireless router. Increasingly, consumers are setting up home Wi-Fi networks in which a router delivers Internet service to several devices. The distance between that router and the devices using it can affect Internet speeds.
  • The number of devices being used. Are you alone using a single device? Or are other family members also using the Internet on a computer, tablet, or smart phone? Many devices using the Internet at the same time compete for the same speeds and can slow things down.

Factors outside your home

Factors outside your home that can affect your Internet speeds include:

  • Heavy traffic on a site. If thousands of other people are trying to access the same website, it may affect how quickly you can access that site.
  • Technical factors. Latency (the time it takes for data to travel from a source to a destination) and packet loss (the number of data packets sent to or from your home that don’t get to their destination) can slow your Internet speeds.
  • Your connection. Is the connection to your home in good condition and functioning well, or does it need servicing?

What can I do if my Internet speeds are not fast enough?

If you’re unhappy with your current speeds, you are free to switch Internet service providers (ISPs). They are ultimately responsible for the equipment they provide, their billing and marketing practices, their quality of service and customer relations. If you have issues with your ISP, you should contact their customer service department and escalate your concerns up to the manager level (if necessary). Otherwise, we suggest you contact the Commission for Complaints for Telecom-television Services (CCTS).

Are there minimum Internet speeds for Canadians?

We recognize that a well-developed broadband infrastructure is essential for Canadians to participate in the digital economy. That is why we set new targets for Internet speeds. We want all Canadian homes and businesses to have access to broadband Internet speeds of at least 50 Mbps for downloads and 10 Mbps for uploads.

While most Canadians today have access to these minimum service levels, many rural and remote regions in Canada lack the infrastructure needed. As part of its effort to support such an infrastructure, we are setting up a fund to help ensure minimum service levels for broadband Internet access across Canada. By the end of 2021, we expect 90% of Canadian homes and businesses will have access to broadband speeds of at least 50 Mbps for downloads and 10 Mbps for uploads.

We expect these targets will be met through a combination of the CRTC funding mechanism, private investments, other government funding, and public-private partnerships. For more information about the plan, see Telecom Regulatory Policy CRTC 2016-496.

For more information . . .

To learn more about broadband Internet services in Canada, see:

2016 Communications Monitoring Report: This annual CRTC report provides a variety of Internet metrics. Section 5.3, Internet sector and broadband availability, is an overview of broadband services and the Internet access industry in Canada.

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