Net Neutrality Win as CRTC Says No to Zero-Rating

In a win for net neutrality, the CRTC says Zero-rating pricing policy can’t be used by network providers. Canadian internet service providers will not be able to exempt certain content from a person’s daily data allowance, a ruling by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) said.

This comes in the wake of concerns by net neutrality activists that carriers are not treating all content equally.  The ruling upholds the principles of net neutrality and implies that usage should determine prices not types of data used.

“Rather than offering its subscribers selected content at different data usage prices, Internet service providers should be offering more data at lower prices,” said Jean-Pierre Blais, chairman of the CRTC in a statement. “That way, subscribers can choose for themselves what content they want to consume.”

This means that no free services of specific internet players can be given without it being part of the customer’s data usage plan. In 2015 a complaint was filed against Videotron which said it was going against the principle of net neutrality by enabling customers to use services such as Spotify and Google Play without impacting their monthly usage allowance.

The principle of charging different prices based on the type of service or app used is known as the zero-rating system and is a differential pricing practice. This could lead to companies sponsoring some data to be free while other data could become more expensive for customers and an effort to impact internet usage behavior.

However some companies which supported differential pricing argued that the practice would actually help lower costs for customers and would lead to healthy competition.

But most customer groups disagreed with the premise as it was against the principles of net neutrality and said it could become a way to promote some types of internet activity.  The CRTC has previously stood for net neutrality when in 2015 a similar complaint was made against Bell and Videotron.

Groups such as Open Media said it hoped CRTC would deal with the issue of Data Caps better and if there were no restrictions on usage, customers would benefit and such practices would not need to be debated.

“While the CRTC could have gone further, today’s ruling is still a very positive step in the right direction.” Open Media said in a statement.