In the past, the only way we could access the Internet was by telephone. It was ‘dial-up’ for all of us. Thankfully, most of us have been able to leave dial-up behind and enjoy broadband Internet that doesn’t tie up our phones. The thing is though, ‘broadband’ generally means a fast connection, but what ‘fast’ is and what it costs, depends on where you are.

Take me, for example. You’ll recall that I upgraded my connection early this year. The typical connection in Canada (at least around here) is 5 Mbps down, and somewhere between 500 kbps and 800 kbps up. This will cost you between $30 and $40 each month. I upgraded to 20 Mbps down and 7 Mbps up. Looking at my last bill, I’ll round up to the nearest dollar and report my cost at an even $80, including the modem rental and taxes. That’s a lot for Internet service but it’s worth it for me because I use it so much. I think that’s reasonable. I pay double the average and get four times faster downloads and ten times faster uploads.

An Ars Technica article posted today titled, “Tokyo, Seoul, and Paris get faster, cheaper broadband than US cities,” compared the state of US Internet accessibility to the rest of the world. Canada wasn’t mentioned in the article but I expect that we’d place just slightly higher than the US, which, as I discovered, isn’t saying much. This was the kicker:

In Hong Kong, you can get a gigabit connection for $48.59 per month. Amsterdam offers a half gigabit for $83.33 per month. Tokyo residents can get a symmetrical 200 Mbps connection for $26.85 per month.

The Hong Kong deal is 50 times faster than mine, for $30 less. Even the bargain Tokyo deal is 10 times faster down and nearly 30 times faster up for about one-third the cost!

I do realize that geography plays heavily into these prices and speeds. Japan has nearly 130 million people living in a country of 380,000 km². Canada, on the other hand, has a quarter (35 million) the population on more than 26 times (10,000,000 km²) the land area. It’s certainly going to cost more to buy and install more cable to provide service to fewer people. Even if you consider just Tokyo, the difference remains. Metro Tokyo has 35 million people while our largest city, metro Toronto, sports 5.5 million residents. Of course it’s going to cost more here.

I’m not complaining, but gigabit Internet sure does sound nice.