The development of a new broadband hub in a Canadian subdivision is important because it allows for the increased distribution of broadband content. The development of broadband plays an important role in not only fiscal but social connections in the 21st century. The purpose of this study was to analyze the current state of broadband infrastructure in Canada, as well as identify areas in which connectivity can be improved. This is an important issue to discuss, since people are becoming more reliant on being connected to the internet in one way or another, with technology playing an increasingly large role in both precision agriculture (Vuran, M et al. 2018) and telecommuting (Hambly, H., & Lee, J. 2018), among many other fields. This study focused on three main broadband types: copper wire, fibre optic, and cellular/wireless, each of which offers varying levels of quality and consistency were organized according to effective range. As such, there is a growing socioeconomic impact that correlates to broadband quality and availability that needs to be addressed. These impacts are mostly seen in the northernmost reaches of Canada and rural areas that are far away from known urban centres and are therefore less likely to have broadband installed due to lower density. One specific issue that can be identified is that a lack of, or access to poor quality broadband internet can predispose Canadians to lower incomes (Ivus, O., & Boland, M., 2015), which can be fixed by implementing better or new broadband infrastructure. With the continuing urban expansion in Canadian cities, the demand for better broadband internet has become centred on achieving faster speeds in urban areas and has largely ignored other areas of Canada. This creates a large gap in data accessibility in rural regions (Pant, L., & Odame, H., 2017). The potential for economic growth via broadband improvement is supported by research which states that improved internet access has effects on a countries GDP growth. (Fertő, I., & Bojnec, Š, 2012). It was also found that broadband adoption rates in rural areas of Australia depend on faster access, faster download, unmetered access, and always-on access. (Sally R. Hill, 2011)
The current state of knowledge in this subject can be divided into either socioeconomic or physical variables. Physical variables account for the limitations that exist when creating new broadband infrastructures, such as the length of the broadband medium, the existence of nearby infrastructure, and the physical attributes of the land area itself, such as elevation and soil composition. To start, data pertaining to the physical location of existing infrastructure is available from the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (hereafter: CRTC) for copper, fibre, and cellular connectivity (CRCT, 2018). Both copper and fibre lines are limited to developed regions, whereas cellular towers are more lenient, meaning data about actual cellular tower locations is important. Data about cellular towers can be found from OpenCellId, which contains a dataset showing locations for all of Canada (OpenCellId, 2018). The existing literature relating to physical constraints of broadband infrastructure includes information about current copper wire technology (Chen et al, 2015), fibre optic technology (Effenberger, F. 2016), and wireless technology. These articles outline the various speeds that can be attained by each broadband technology, as well as how far their effective range is before quality diminishes. This information is reinforced by a document prepared by the European Commission Directorate-General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology (abbreviated to EUCNCT), who also has data values for technology ranges and speeds (EUCNCT, 2015).
With all of this data, however, there are still some areas which would improve the quality of the analysis. One such area is the effect of construction on the installation of new broadband infrastructure. It is commonplace for telecommunication companies to place new lines at the same time road work is being done, but there is no information into how much a company saves when doing this. This could affect availability, as a company might not be willing to incur extra costs if it can be prevented. Another piece of information that would help is knowledge of existing broadband lines and their age. This data set does not currently exist but could help in determining areas that need improvement, since an older cable will be of lower quality compared to newer ones, which will, in turn, affect data speeds, and will be treated as a priority needs evaluation.
This type of problem benefits well from spatial analysis since there are multiple spatial factors which can influence broadband connections. For instance, it can be seen that the further away a community is from an urban centre, the worse off their broadband connection becomes (Pant, L., & Odame, H., 2017). Additionally, each broadband medium has its own restrictions in transmission distance, which limits how far away new lines can be created. The use of a geographic information system (GIS) can help thoroughly analyze the many influential factors involved in broadband infrastructure and has been used multiple times when dealing with similar topics in the past (McMahon, Smith, & Whiteduck. 2017; Sawada, M. et al. 2016). GIS tools provide a framework to analyze how multiple factors and constraints can impact a study area by applying weights to each, which is one of the more common approaches when trying to find an optimal location (Song, Y.-K., Zo, H., & Ciganek, A. P. 2014). This analysis will use GIS to create a Multi-Criteria Evaluation (MCE) model, as it is able to cohesively connect multiple spatial attributes together to determine the optimal locations for broadband infrastructure to be built.
Purpose of Research
This study determined which Canadian subdivisions benefit most from improved broadband infrastructure by using relevant criteria and constraints to create and apply multiple spatial models in the form of a multi-criteria evaluation (MCE), with the goal of creating a map of subdivisions requiring broadband improvements.
Objective 1) To define underlying factors and constraints for broadband network expansion.
Objective 2) To develop a relevant GIS-based model that can be used to evaluate the state of Canada’s broadband network.
Objective 3) To use the model to compile a map of potential subdivision land areas for broadband development which will also generate a final list of potential subdivisions.
Objective 4) Evaluate the strengths and limitations of the broadband MCE model.