City of Ottawa launches internet performance test

Whether you're thrilled or frustrated by your internet connection, the City of Ottawa wants to hear about it.

Delivered in partnership with the Canadian Internet Registration Authority, a new online portal allows Ottawa residents to put their internet connection through its paces. The tool is available on the CIRA website here. 

At the click of a button, residents will receive information about the speed and performance of their connection, allowing them to compare results from across the city.

Becoming a 'smart city'

Matt Eason, an economic development officer with the City of Ottawa, said the city is considering several "smart city" initiatives, from internet-enabled traffic management systems and street lights, to amplified 5G signals for mobile devices.

As Eason put it, the test results will help the city increase the number of services available online, including parking and other permits.

"At a basic level, you'd be looking at things like services that right now you have to physically go to a client service centre to access," he said. "We'll be looking to move a lot of those online. There will be a number of opportunities to provide services in a mobile-friendly way, beyond just kind of your standard desktop website."

Rural connectivity also a concern

The city is also hoping the test results will provide a better understanding of broadband connectivity in Ottawa's rural communities.

"Obviously, there are some areas where connectivity is faster, easier — there are more provider choices," Eason said. "But again, because of the unique nature of our geography, there are more rural areas where there may not be the same diversity of choice."

While results from the project will be shared with the city, residents on the outskirts of the city can also test their connection using the online portal.

Jim Pine is the co-lead of the Eastern Ontario Regional Network, an organization that aims to improve broadband access and speeds across 13 counties surrounding the City of Ottawa proper.

"In rural areas, it was pretty bad in spots. We've made some big improvements through the project, but we always know that there's more to do," Pine said. "The demand for bandwidth over the internet, it grows exponentially — as you probably know — whether you're a rural customer or whether you live in an urban city like Ottawa."

Between 2010 and 2015, the Eastern Ontario Regional Network invested $175 million in infrastructure to improve access for roughly 425,000 homes and businesses across Eastern Ontario.

The Eastern Ontario Regional Network has not yet decided whether to pursue a similar test with the Canadian Internet Registration Authority, but Pine said they continue to work to improve the quality of service in the area.

"We're thinking about how best do that," he said. "We've talked to residents and businesses around the region about what kind of services they're getting. We regularly work with the private sector partners who helped us build the network."

Last December, the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission declared broadband internet a basic telecommunications service, ordering providers across the country to boost service and speeds in rural and isolated areas.

Internet service providers are now expected to offer download speeds of at least 50 megabits (Mbps) and upload speeds of at least 10 Mbps.