Welcome to Canada – the home of over-priced telecommunications!


RouterBoard 112 with U.FL-RSMA pigtail and R52...

As some of you know, I’ve been offline recently while we changed our internet service provider (ISP) and that’s why things have been quiet around here. While it’s no excuse for not writing (I work mostly offline in Word or OmmWriter) I can claim that I’ve been absorbed researching internet packages, and believe me, in Canada that’s not a task that’ll put you in a good mood. However, in the tradition of the adaptive expat, I’ll disguise my grumbling as an informative post…

Behind the times and stingy with it

Canada is among the most expensive countries in the world to surf the net thanks to a government sanctioned regulatory committee that allowed carriers to price-fix the entire market through Usage Based Billing (UBB). In countries where carriers offer packages with no bandwidth limitations, the cost is driven down but lack of diversity and competition in the telecommunications marketplace here means they are unable to offer competitive levels of service and pricing compared to other countries.

Whenever our communications outlay needs re-evaluating it’s a reminder of the teeth-grindingly bitter fact that here you pay huge amounts for a very limited service – and no-one likes facing up to that kind of reality. In the UK we had unlimited usage with an average speed of 56 megabits per second (mbps) as part of our phone package. The whole lot (unlimited high-speed internet, free local calls and free evening and weekend national calls) cost twenty-five pounds ($40) a month. Here, average speeds range from 3.5 – 40 mbps on a mobile connection or up to 25 mbps through a router, and that not only sets you back $60 per month but is capped at 125GB and covers the internet alone, no phone included. Don’t even get me started on the phone… did you know you pay to accept a call here?

It’s complicated…

Our situation is complicated. We have another six months at this address, but after that, nothing’s certain. So we figured mobile was the way to go – no wires or cables and no contract – just month-to-month payments. We had three options: a stick, a hotspot or a hub. A stick plugs into the USB port of your device so only one person at a time can access the web, a hotspot allows for up to ten devices to connect remotely and a hub, fifteen.  We were torn between a hotspot and a hub. As our sole means of connection, it had to be able to cope with the full-time needs of a family and business – streaming movies, admin, Skype, etc. and it had to be durable. Electrical goods in Canada are often only covered by a 12month manufacturers warranty (though extended warranty is available to buy in most cases) after which time the service provider may not be obligated to repair or replace them, even if you’re still under contract.

Speed versus usage

Hotspots and some hubs facilitate Canada’s LTE network. The next step up from 4G, it’s now the fastest wireless network technology on the planet. Used to those nippy UK speeds we thought this was the way to go and found a package that promised 10GB per month for $52 at average speeds of 12 – 40 mbps.  Sigh  It was the best we could find. The only question was “would 10GB per month be enough?”

A little research revealed streaming a film uses between 750MB and 2GB depending on quality (high-definition films require more pixels to be transmitted = more data = using up MB at an astronomical rate). We don’t have cable and can’t access free to air channels, so we stream the vast majority of our entertainment. In the end, the choice came down to speed versus usage amount. Rather than enjoy a heavily rationed super-fast service, we figured a similarly priced standard cable package at lower speeds but without the “clock-watching” was better. We’d just have to work out the change of address shenanigans nearer the time.

When it comes to telecommunications in Canada, there’s one certainty: they’ll make you pay, one way or another.

If anyone has any advice I’d love to hear it! Leave a comment below…

Whitby Shores, Whitby, Ontario

By Aisha Ashraf

An autistic Irish immigrant in a cross-cultural marriage, Aisha Ashraf is the archetypal outlander, writing to root herself through place and perspective. Published in The Rumpus, The Maine Review, River Teeth, HuffPost and elsewhere, her work explores the legacy of trauma, the nature of being an outsider and the narrow confines of belonging. She currently lives in Canada.


    1. How about you enlighten us…is it the size thing? Don’t tell me you fell for that old chestnut! Vast tracts of Canada don’t have internet – around ninety percent of Canadians live in a narrow band along the southern border. The U.S. isn’t exactly petit, but their costs are nothing like ours.

      1. Not so much size, but that does come into it. The infrastructure here is very large. And there are not many people here to pay for it. It is the same with cell phones. Look at the UK, very small country, but around 70 million people. Canada? 33 million people! Simple math, less people to pay for the service, means more money to pay per person. But, I am sure you done your homework before you came here. I did. Certain houses I wanted, I could not have, due to lack of internet service. I use between 70-100 Gig a month.

        1. Ok, so in Australia internet is a bit ridiculous (though they are in the process of getting fiber optic). However mobile (cell) phone bills cost about half as much. There isn’t a huge difference between person per meter squared in Australia….

          I think with mobiles, it has more to do with the complete lack of competition.

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