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The data collection tool that could build a better internet

Concordia professor Fenwick McKelvey is teaming up with the Canadian Internet Registration Authority to create a new web performance test
May 25, 2015
By Cléa Desjardins

Canadians spend more time online than anyone else in the world — an average of 41.3 hours a month, according to the Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA).

At the same time, however, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) reports that Canada’s internet speed and pricing have been on a steady decline for well over a decade, ranking 19th among member states last year.

As demand for better, faster internet connections keeps growing, will Canadian service providers be able to keep up with the pace?

Fenwick McKelvey’s research is helping to paint a more accurate picture of internet usage across the country. Fenwick McKelvey’s research is helping to paint a more accurate picture of internet usage across the country.

We’ll soon see, thanks to a new project just launched by CIRA with the help of Concordia researcher Fenwick McKelvey. Through a simple web app, the new .CA Internet Performance Test, Canadians can evaluate several performance indicators of their internet connections — including how fast they can download and upload content.

As each user performs a test, data is anonymously collected and aggregated into a large dataset. The result: a better understanding of Canada’s internet infrastructure’s capabilities and the ability to compare connection speeds geographically.

The test will generate reliable, neutral and open data from across the country. It will also help make service providers more accountable, while painting a more accurate picture of internet usage nationwide.

For McKelvey, an assistant professor in Concordia’s Department of Communication Studies, the project is a great opportunity to partner with Canadian citizens from coast to coast to coast to build a map of internet service across the country.

He’s excited to be working on a project that turns the public into research collaborators, who will benefit directly from its results. “The success of the .CA test will become an important case study of how crowdsourcing can be used in academic and policy research, showing new ways for academics to engage with the community.”

He points out that the research team will be able to use the information from the test to assess the so-called “digital divide” in Canada and investigate linkages between demography, geography, economics, and internet performance.

“The test will provide consumers, internet service providers, network administrators, and regulators with important information about how the Internet in Canada performs, and details that can help improve the Internet experience.”

Participate in the .CA Internet Performance Test


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