EORN: A good start, but far from complete

EORN, the Eastern Ontario Regional Network, has a stated mission "to provide higher speeds and bandwidth to at least 95 per cent of homes and businesses in Eastern Ontario".

This is undeniably a good idea, and EORN has made a lot of progress in the last few years.

On November 14, 2014, though, some EORN executives held a party celebrating the "completion" of the network. EORN is, in fact, very far from complete, and claiming success so early in the process seems akin to George W. Bush's infamous "mission accomplished" photo op in the early days of the Iraq war.

In most of EORN's area of interest, the best connection available is artificially capped at 10 Mbps down / 1 Mbps up (and usually runs at half that), with usage limits of 100 GB a month. In other words, the best $100-a-month package available is only one-tenth of what "business class" means to today's customers, and is just barely within the US FCC's 2015 definition of "broadband".

Those of us in more topographically challenging areas have only one option, Xplornet's HughesNet and ViaSat geosynchronous satellite links, which slow to a literal crawl - 5/1 claimed, but more commonly 2/0.3 with ping times of 300 to 700 ms - during peak hours, and with downtime measured in the hours per week.

This is not a "complete" network by any stretch of the imagination.

Where's the connection with usable upload speeds? There isn't one.

Where's the business-class connection with reliability of even 95%, let alone the 99.999% we grew accustomed to from Bell Canada back in their heyday? There isn't one.

Why are all the connection options capped at 20 to 100 GB/month? ISPs costs depend only on the coverage area, the total peak capacity of each node, the number of service calls, and the number of monthly bills to process. Unless the guy buying their back-haul is completely incompetent, an ISP's marginal cost to move an extra gigabyte is less than one cent.

A provider's blanket refusal to offer uncapped plans for, say, $10 more than capped ones isn't "reasonable network management". Rather, it's clear abuse of a monopoly in one field (internet service) to support a different, failing line of business (satellite / cable TV).

Where are the competitive choices? There aren't any. In most of the EORN coverage area, you either have just one provider, or if you have two, they have nearly identical technology, speed / usage caps, and prices.

EORN is a start. A very good start, on a problem that's neither easy nor cheap to solve, but it's just a start. There's still a lot of fibre to run, there are a lot of WiMax and LTE towers to build.

When EORN's "95% of homes and businesses" can obtain 10/10/uncapped business-class service, for no more than double the $51 that Bell charges for that service in the areas they currently serve, then we'll believe claims that the network is "complete".

Until then, let's be honest about what's really going on with the project.




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