Canada's telecom regulator is upholding its commitment to net neutrality principles, with a ruling on Thursday prohibiting Internet service provider Videotron from offering access to content from services such as Spotify and Google Play Music, without it counting against customers’ data allowances.
The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) did not issue a blanket ban, however, instead saying it would rule on a case-by-case basis. In a similar case back in 2015, the regulator had already ruled that wireless carriers Bell and Videotron could not exempt their own streaming TV services from counting toward subscribers' data caps.
The practice is known as zero-rating and is common in the U.S. and other parts of the world. In the U.S., for instance, AT&T announced last year that its DirecTV streaming service would be zero-rated for AT&T customers, while wireless carrier T-Mobile has offered unlimited music and video streaming from a long list of content providers for about three years now.
While this can certainly be seen as a good thing from a consumer perspective, the concern is that it could harm competition in the long term, especially from new entrants and smaller players. A zero-rated service on a network will be a more attractive choice for customers interested in a video streaming subscription, giving companies with deeper pockets an advantage over their rivals.
The CRTC's ruling comes in stark contrast to recent moves by the new FCC administration in the U.S. Ajit Pai, the commission’s new chairman, called net neutrality a "mistake" at Mobile World Congress in February and proposed an agenda that could roll back several regulatory protections.
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