Just as the internet has become a staple in the lives of Canadians, internet disruptions have become a fact of life. They are everywhere, with the most common causes being internet service provider (ISP) outages (71 per cent), followed by weather events (44 per cent).
While many people recognize that large ISP networks are incredibly complicated, it’s not easy, even for polite Canadians, to wait patiently for their connectivity to be restored. Any internet service outage or disruption, no matter how brief, has the potential to have a negative impact on our daily lives in a myriad of ways. Most of us can take a break from our social media feeds or get by without our streaming service of choice for an hour or two without experiencing too much angst. But the longer a disruption lasts, these relatively minor annoyances can give way to major inconveniences in a hurry.
For instance, if you’re among the growing number of Canadians who depend on their home internet connections for work, lost connectivity usually means lost productivity and added stress. And that virtual medical appointment that’s been on your calendar for months that you’ll have to postpone because you’re not able to connect to the Zoom call? That could have very real consequences for your health. In rare instances, an untimely internet outage can even become a matter of life or death, when lack of connectivity forces a hospital to cancel surgeries, or when those with urgent medical needs aren’t able to contact emergency services.
Just how common are internet disruptions in Canada? In this year’s Canada’s Internet Factbook survey, just over one-quarter (27 per cent) of Canadians say they experienced a major disruption to their home internet in 2022, with 64 per cent of these saying that it happened between one and four times. The residents of Ontario (40 per cent) and PEI (51 per cent) are most likely to report experiencing a disruption compared to the residents of other provinces. And while the length of time Canadians said they were without internet access varied, one-third of those who experienced a disruption said they were without service for a day or more.
There’s nothing new about internet outages in Canada, but the impact of two major weather-related disruptions and one nationwide ISP outage that occurred in 2022 will stick in the minds of many Canadians for years to come. Hurricane Fiona, a damaging post-tropical storm which struck parts of Nova Scotia and PEI in September 2022, resulted in lengthy internet disruptions for many residents. Not surprisingly, in this year’s survey Nova Scotia and PEI residents (76 per cent) were more likely to report an outage caused by an extreme weather event than those living in other provinces. Another extreme weather event, the wind storms in Ontario, which led to a swath of destruction through the southern part of the province last May, also took thousands of residents offline for an extended period.