GATINEAU, QUEBEC — The country's telecom regulator says Canadians are demanding more, and faster, Internet access, especially on mobile devices.
But critics complain that broadband speeds are not keeping up with that demand and it's getting much more expensive to go online.
In its annual communications monitoring report, the CRTC says there were three million more mobile broadband subscriptions taken out by Canadians in 2016 compared with the previous year, a 13.3-per-cent increase.
And the regulator says Canadians used an average of 1.2 gigabytes of data a month on their wireless devices, a 25-per-cent hike from 2015.
Average monthly consumption of data using home Internet connections was also up by more than 23 per cent in 2016 compared with the previous year, reaching 128.3 gigabytes, said the report.
The CRTC said that, over the last five years, monthly data used by Canadians increased by an average of 40 per cent annually.
CRTC chairman Ian Scott says the regulator is working with industry and consumers to ensure greater access.
"As the industry continues to invest in their networks to meet current and future demands, the CRTC is establishing a fund to improve broadband access in remote and rural communities," Scott said in a statement accompanying the report.
But broadband advocacy group OpenMedia notes that nine out of 10 Canadians still haven't subscribed to what the regulator considers "basic" Internet service.
"It's been almost a year since high-speed Internet was declared a basic service in Canada, but we are still far from this being a reality for the majority of Canadians," said Katy Anderson, OpenMedia's digital rights advocate.
"We're seeing continued cord-cutting across the country and a significant increase in data usage — but our telecommunications market has not kept up,"
Anderson added, saying Canadians also face higher broadband prices than in many other countries, as well as caps on data use.
The CRTC last year declared high-speed broadband — with speeds of 10 megabits per second (Mbps) for upload, and 50 Mbps for download — as a basic standard of service. The target date for reaching that goal was set at 2020. It also compelled telecommunications providers to pay $750 million over five years to build broadbrand infrastructure in rural and remote areas.
By the end of 2016, those speeds were available to 84 per cent of Canadians, the regulator said.
But higher speeds and more data usage has come at a price, with the average household spending $218.42 a month on communications services in 2015, a 1.7 per cent increase over the previous year, the CRTC said.
Most of the monthly bill, 40 per cent, was spent on mobile devices, while 25 per cent went for TV services and 21 per cent for Internet. Just 14 per cent went to telephone services.