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Canada strengthens net neutrality commitment

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has strengthened its commitment to net neutrality by declaring that Internet Service Providers should treat data traffic equally to foster consumer choice, innovation and the free exchange of ideas. As such, the CRTC is publishing a new framework regarding differential pricing practices.

This framework supports a fair marketplace for services, cultural expression and ideas in which Internet Service Providers compete on price, quality of service, speeds, data allowance and better service offerings, rather than by treating the data usage of certain content differently.

The CRTC is of the view that differential pricing generally gives an unfair advantage or disadvantage to certain content providers and consumers.

After assessing Videotron’s Unlimited Music Service under the new framework, the CRTC found that the company is giving an undue preference to certain consumers and music streaming services, while subjecting other consumers and content providers to an unreasonable disadvantage. Videotron must ensure its Unlimited Music Service comes into compliance within 90 days. Vidéotron’s Unlimited Music service exempts several music streaming services from data charges under certain mobile plans (a practice also known as zero-rating).

“A free and open Internet gives everyone a fair chance to innovate and for a vast array of content to be discovered by consumers,” declared Jean-Pierre Blais, Chairman and CEO, CRTC. “A free and open Internet also allows citizens to be informed and engage on issues of public concern without undue or inappropriate interference by those who operate those networks. 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 CRTC says it has established a clear and transparent regulatory framework to govern differential pricing practices, which supports the ability for all creators of online content to innovate freely and allows consumers to choose what they wish to consume without interference. Its move puts Canada in contrast to North American neighbour USA, with FCC Chairman Ajit Pai a long-time foe of the net neutrality rules.

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