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By some estimates, about 700,000 homes in Canada lack broadband Internet access, and many Canadians who do connect to the Internet do so at speeds barely faster than dial-up

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The extremely slow speeds of dial-up Internet (less than 56 kilobits per second) through telephone lines make it barely capable of comfortable Web browsing and nearly useless for watching videos.

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Most cities in North America receive Internet via DSL (digital subscriber line) over phone lines, or cable Internet (roughly $100 a month for 50 Megabits per second), over coaxial cable lines. These advanced wired networks are much faster than dial-up and offer much more capacity.

Kevin Van Paassen/Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail

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Satellite is widely available (more than $100 a month for 1.5 Mbps), but equipment and installation costs are high and access can be blocked by tall buildings or trees. Capacity is currently limited, but new satellites are being launched in the next two years.

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Wireless Internet signals from cellular towers are a cheaper solution than wired networks and are widely available (for around $65 per month for 3 Mbps), but the signal can be blocked by hills, mountains and valleys, even trees.

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Networks of fibre-optic glass cables, either buried or strung from hydro poles, are ultra-fast (they can reach 170 Mbps for about $240 a month) and capable of handling anything from telemedicine to streaming high-definition movies. But they are expensive to deploy and usually only used in densely populated urban areas.

HANNIBAL HANSCHKE/Photos.com

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