CRTC’s price rules end Videotron’s unlimited music
Canada’s telecommunications regulator revealed new rules that prevent mobile and fixed Internet providers from exempting certain content from data caps, a move that effectively kills Quebecor Inc.-owned Videotron’s unlimited music mobile plans.
The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission released on Thursday its decision on differential pricing, a practice also known as zero-rating that allows customers to access certain content without counting against their data caps.
The much-anticipated ruling did not ban data caps, an issue that dominated consultation on the matter.
It did, however, create a framework that requires providers to treat all data equally. It concluded Videotron’s service did not do this and gave it 90 days to comply with the rules.
“A free and open Internet gives everyone a fair chance to innovate and for a vast array of content to be discovered by consumers,” CRTC Chairman Jean-Pierre Blais said in a statement.
“Rather than offering its subscribers selected content at different data usage prices, Internet service providers should be offering more data at lower prices. That way, subscribers can choose for themselves what content they want to consume.”
The decision stems from a complaint into Videotron’s unlimited music service, which lets mobile customers stream as much music as they want from more than a dozen different apps without dipping into their monthly data caps.
Proponents argue such promotions are great deals for customers that help providers differentiate their products, while opponents counter they violate net neutrality by allowing providers to act as gatekeepers.
At the public hearing on the matter in November, data caps dominated the discussion since differential pricing could not exist without the existence of data caps.
The differential pricing framework will be complaints-based. Parties can complain about a particular offering, or a service provider can come into the commission to get prior approval before putting something on the market.
The CRTC says it wants to see Canadians use as much data as possible, but it doesn’t want providers to pick and choose the content.