If you suspect your “high-speed” Internet service is regularly stuck in a traffic jam, the City of Ottawa and the agency that oversees Canada’s .ca registry now have a way to put those suspicions to the test.
© CIRA / City of Ottawa
A heatmap of Internet speeds in Ottawa.
The city and the Ottawa-based Canadian Internet Registration Authority joined forces this week to launch the Internet Performance Test. The test measures about 100 variables related to household and business Internet connections, including speed, overall quality of performance and compliance with various standards.
By Wednesday afternoon, more than 18,500 speed tests had been performed across the city. Users in and around the Greenbelt, as well as those in the ByWard Market, West Centretown and the Ledbury / Heron Gate / Ridgemount / Elmwood recorded the highest speeds. Rural communities on Ottawa’s outskirts recorded the slowest speeds.
CIRA chief executive Byron Holland said the test precisely calculates real-time Internet speeds, which might not always match those promised by service providers.
“We can’t provide the answer to the question, ‘Why?’” he says. “But what we do is provide that initial overlay of information that says, ‘This is what’s happening.’”
The city will use that information to come up with a clearer picture of the overall state of Internet service in the capital. Data on metrics such as speed can be “heat-mapped” to show exactly how different neighbourhoods stack up against each other and where problem areas exist. Network operators can then use that information to try to figure out why Internet users on one street, for example, are getting slower service than households six or eight blocks away.
The city says a more thorough understanding of Ottawa’s Internet landscape will allow it to better tailor digital services across the municipality.
For example, high-bandwidth activities such as video streaming, voice-over-Internet-protocol phone calling and virtual reality exercises might not possible in regions where Internet connections are weak or unreliable. “Smart city” technology such as traffic management tools also requires a robust Internet infrastructure, and the test will help determine what areas of the city need to be shored up.
City officials said the test will also shed light on whether more investment in broadband infrastructure is needed to attract and retain businesses such as technology firms that gain a competitive edge from better Internet service.
“Like many municipalities in Canada and around the world, Ottawa is embracing the ‘Smart City’ movement and is looking for ways to better understand access to Internet service throughout the city,” Mayor Jim Watson said in a statement.
“Access to high-speed broadband has become the de facto baseline for nearly every community, let alone a hub for high-tech activity and innovation like Ottawa. In addition, we are hoping the IPT will help us gain a better understanding of the actual level of rural connectivity and determine the extent of the digital divide.”
To participate in the test, go to performance.cira.ca/ottawa.