Sask. speed test finds slow internet service

Rural Saskatchewan residents have long complained about their internet speed, but just how poor is it?

The Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan last week launched a speed test survey to get a more accurate picture.

Jeremy Welter, who chairs the APAS Rural Connectivity task force, said hard data will help the push for better broadband as a whole as well as help individuals make sure they are getting what they pay for.

He said a 2019 APAS survey found people were unhappy with their providers and service.

“People were finding issues with not just their ability to connect to the internet, but it was also the ability to use online services for everything from shopping to banking to telehealth to running a business,” he said.

“Rural Saskatchewan is at a very strong disadvantage when it comes to connectivity, something that is now as essential as heat and water.”

Welter said while providers will encourage users to use speed tests on their own websites, this APAS test, in conjunction with the Canadian Internet Registration Authority, is independent.

As of Nov. 16 nearly 17,000 tests had already been conducted. The results are posted on a map of the province within the speed test itself.

The federal government has targeted universal download speed of 50 megabits per second and upload speeds of 10 Mbps.

Welter noted that the map so far shows just a few sites where the speed was 50 Mbps, while most of the province was at 25 Mbps or below.

He said people can do the test once or program it to conduct multiple tests to see results at different times.

“We’d like to leave it up as long as it is getting useful data,” he said.

In 2021, APAS plans to release a final report on the test along with policy recommendations.

Welter said recent announcements from the federal government about broadband expansion are welcome but he wonders how feasible they are.

For example, he said low earth orbit satellites will still require a ground station to connect the satellite to the internet through fibre optics. And he questions how many satellites will be required.

“Surely it’s more cost-effective to install fibre optics,” he said.

The speed test can be found at www.apas.ca/speedtest.

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