Massive rural-urban internet divide growing during COVID-19


Not only is there a wide gap between internet speeds in rural versus urban parts of Canada, but the gap has grown since the COVID-19 pandemic began, according to data shared by the Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA).

In the month of April, the median download speed for rural Canadians was 3.78 Mbps, compared with 44.09 Mbps in urban Canada — nearly 12 times as fast, says CIRA.

On top of that, the median speed for rural users was down from a typical range of 4 to 7 Mbps before the pandemic, notes CIRA. At the same time, urban internet speeds have increased, climbing to an annual high of 44.09 Mbps in April — likely the result of urban Canadians upgrading their internet service as they spend more time at home.

The not-for-profit Canadian internet organization published the analysis as part of its submission to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission’s (CRTC) consultation on barriers to broadband internet in rural areas earlier this month. The numbers are based on results from tens of thousands of Canadians taking CIRA’s Internet Performance Test.

“It’s clear that rural Canadians are facing serious connectivity challenges right now, and are counting on all industry stakeholders to take action to achieve the CRTC’s 50/10 objective,” notes CIRA vice president Dave Chisell, referring to the CRTC’s goal of bringing internet to all Canadians with 50 Mbps download and 10 Mbps upload speeds, in a statement.

“The data we released shows a massive gap between the speeds that rural and urban Canadians are receiving — a gap that feels even larger in light of widespread social distancing and working from home,” he continues.

CIRA is best known for managing the.CA internet domain, and advocates for policies to bring secure, accessible and resilient internet to Canadians. You can take the CIRA Internet Performance Test here, and read the entire CRTC submission here.

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