CRTC’s price rules end Videotron’s un­lim­ited mu­sic

Regina Leader-Post - - FP REGINA - EMILY JACK­SON

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.

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