Canada’s online obsession

For most, a new year means a huge party on December 31st, but for businesses it just means a new set of tasks to complete. Corporations balance out their taxes, media sites compile their ‘best of the year’ lists and everybody who’s anybody compiles statistics.

One batch of these statistics, compiled from research done by comScore, trenddr, and official Google and Twitter statistics have once again confirmed that Canadians are crazy about the Internet. Canadians have always led the charge in adapting to new technology online but with the recent boom in social networking sites, this flexibility has become even more apparent. Canadians enjoy the greatest Internet penetration with 68% of the country’s population online.

Canadians also spend more time online than anybody else: on average, Canadian users are online for 2,500 minutes every month. Only a small handful of countries broke the 2000 minute mark.

Canadians also embrace social media more than other countries. For example, 51% of the Canadian population uses Facebook. And though it isn’t as popular yet, Twitter gained over 100 million global users in 2010. According to a Twitter spokesperson, the number of Canadian users increased by 75% and the number of tweets from Canadians doubled.

The true testament to Canadians love of the web however would appear to be their usage of YouTube. Canadians are the number one users of the site per capita in the world. According to Chris O’Neill, Canada’s country director for Google,
“It’s just absolutely crazy in terms of how passionate Canadians are about YouTube,” says Chris O’Neill, Canada’s country director of Google. Twenty-one million Canadians visit YouTube every month and on average, each viewer will watch 147 videos. Young adults take things to the next level: Canadians aged 18-24 watch on average a staggering 244 videos on YouTube every month.

With so many Canadians spending so much time online, the country needs extensive infrastructure to keep users surfing the web at a bearable speed. Bell Canada provides the bulk of this infrastructure with 80% of Canadian web traffic running through their networks. Knowing just how much Canadians use the Internet may have prompted Bell’s decision to approach the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) and request permission to change their billing practices.

In early May 2010, the CRTC granted Bell permission to institute usage-based billing. Canadians haven’t noticed any changes yet is because of a provision in the approval that requires Bell to apply any changes to all of its retail clients before changes are made to wholesale customers. Bell stated the reason for this change was to relieve network congestion caused by heavy downloaders. Smaller ISP’s were opposed to the decision, claiming it eliminated any differences between them and Bell.

Under the new billing structure, customers would pay a flat fee. For example, users would have 60 gigabytes of free downloading every month, with each additional GB charged $1.12 up to a maximum of $22.50. Rates will vary based on connection speed but this new system stands to drive connection prices up by a fair margin.

“The rates are absolutely atrocious,” says Rocky Gaudrault, president of Ontario-based Internet service provider Teksavvy. “How the hell are we doing above one dollar for extra usage?”

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