Cost-cutting connections

highwayImagine the state our economy would be in if it cost a hundred times more to drive down a Canadian highway than an American one. Or a hundred times more to ship freight on a Canadian railway than on its US counterpart.

Now consider the freight of the modern digital economy: internet traffic. In Alberta today, rates paid by not-for-profit institutions are around one hundred times higher than US wholesale rates. This is an issue Cybera is hoping to make people more aware of, and also one that '€” in our own way '€” we are trying to address.

Early last year, Cybera launched a no-charge Peering Service for our not-for-profit members. This provides them with a more direct connection to transit hubs such as the Seattle Internet Exchange (SIX), which is a gateway to hundreds of major companies such as Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Limelight and more. What this means for our members is not only increased connection speeds, but the chance to significantly reduce the amount of service they need to purchase from internet service providers (ISPs). Cybera is not an ISP, nor does it intend to become one, but we are positioned to help out with these direct connections.

Since its launch, Cybera's Peering Service has connected to post-secondary institutions such as Athabasca University and the Universities of Alberta and Lethbridge, and we are now excited to see several provincial school districts signing on as members to gain access to these benefits. In many cases, these peering services have reduced their need to purchase from ISPs by over 60%.

Shortly we will launch the second phase of our project to reduce internet costs for our members by facilitating a group buy. As an aggregator of the not-for-profit traffic, we can encourage the ISPs to compete with each other and ensure that taxpayers' dollars are used as effectively as possible.

But the overall goal is not just to offer Cybera's members an efficient alternative to costly internet services, but to address the need for everyone in the country to have reasonably priced internet access. And it seems these calls for change are not going unnoticed. Some ISPs have begun to offer reduced rates, though we still have a long way to go before we reach parity with the US.

When this happens, Canadians will have what they need to compete: an Internet service that's priced to encourage communication and business growth, and not one that hinders it.