Data-pric­ing rul­ing should lower prices: CRTC chair

Times Colonist - - Business - ALEK­SAN­DRA SA­GAN

TORONTO — In­ter­net ser­vice providers can no longer ex­empt some con­tent, like cer­tain video and mu­sic stream­ing ap­pli­ca­tions, from count­ing to­ward cus­tomers’ data caps, says Canada’s telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions watch­dog.

The CRTC ruled ISPs must treat all web traf­fic equally and can­not pri­or­i­tize such con­tent by ex­empt­ing its use from be­ing tal­lied to­wards a data cap. The prac­tice, known as dif­fer­en­tial pric­ing, could give an un­fair ad­van­tage or dis­ad­van­tage to some con­tent providers and con­sumers, the com­mis­sion said.

The CRTC did not go so far as to ban monthly data al­lot­ments as some con­sumer ad­vo­cacy groups had urged, but said it hopes the new dif­fer­en­tial pric­ing frame­work will spur com­pa­nies to of­fer con­sumers more data at lower prices.

“We do be­lieve that there will be a down­ward pres­sure on the use of caps as a re­sult of this de­ci­sion,” said CRTC chair­man Jean-Pierre Blais.

“In fact, the de­ci­sion proves that some ISPs ob­vi­ously have ex­tra ca­pac­ity,” he said, ex­plain­ing some were of­fer­ing the data used to stream cer­tain ser­vices “for lit­tle or noth­ing.”

“There is ob­vi­ously room for them to have less re­liance on data caps.”

Josh Tabish, a spokesman for con­sumer ad­vo­cacy group OpenMe­dia, which cam­paigned for the CRTC to end the prac­tice of data caps in Canada, said he’s fairly op­ti­mistic the rul­ing will make a dif­fer­ence.

When providers can’t use billing gimmicks such as dif­fer­en­tial pric­ing, he said, com­pa­nies will only be able to com­pete on data, speed and price.

Rogers, Bell and Telus did not re­spond to ques­tions about of­fer­ing cheaper plans with more data in the fu­ture. Bell said it al­ready op­er­ates in a way that is con­sis­tent with the new frame­work and Rogers called it a good de­ci­sion that pre­vents In­ter­net providers from act­ing as gate­keep­ers. Telus said it is re­view­ing the CRTC’s de­ci­sion re­gard­ing the prac­tice of dif­fer­en­tial pric­ing.

The CRTC de­ci­sion came fol­low­ing hear­ings held last fall stem­ming from a com­plaint about Que­beco­rowned Vidéotron over the way it bills cus­tomers for the data they use.

Vidéotron launched an un­lim­ited mu­sic stream­ing ser­vice in Au­gust 2015 that al­lowed its cus­tomers to stream mu­sic from spe­cific third-party ser­vices with­out it count­ing against their monthly data cap.

The CRTC ruled that Vidéotron must en­sure this ser­vice com­plies with the new reg­u­la­tions within 90 days. Vidéotron said in a state­ment that it’s dis­ap­pointed by the de­ci­sion as it be­lieved its ser­vice was re­spon­sive to con­sumers’ needs and in­ter­ests.

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