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CRTC to Review “Zero-Rating” Internet Plans

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The CRTC is preparing a new public review which will examine differential pricing and zero-rating for both wired and wireless Internet, reports CBC News. The practice of offering customers packages with unlimited music or video streaming is called zero-rating. The CRTC will look into the matter and decide whether or not this is good for consumers.

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It all comes down to net neutrality, the idea that all data and traffic on the Internet should be treated equally. The review was ignited by complaints against Videotron, which offers Unlimited Music, allowing customers to stream music from certain third-party services without counting the data traffic towards their customers’ monthly data cap.

The PIAC (Public Interest Advocacy Centre), the author of the complaint, claims Unlimited Music allows the carrier to discriminate against other music-streaming services in favour of those with which it has inked a deal.

“Nobody likes data caps and as long as this happens, there will perpetually be data caps because then telecoms can pick and choose what they want to make free, and everything else is charged data,” he says.”There isn’t really any difference between the bits travelling along the tubes, but when you make some bits count more than others, you can charge for them,” he says.

Videotron, on the other hand, says the complaints are unfounded, as it is open to signing an agreement with any of the available third-party music streaming service providers.

“Videotron is not conferring an undue preference on itself or anyone else,” said a company spokesperson in an email to CBC News. “Participation in the Unlimited Music service is open to all streaming service providers that meet Videotron’s technical criteria, and Videotron is not receiving any compensation from any provider.”

The case is very similar to an earlier Bell case which ultimately ended with a ruling against the carrier: the CRTC ordered Bell to stop giving preferential treatment to its own mobile television service.

The CRTC, however, says the Bell and Videotron cases are different, since Bell had its own app, while Videotron doesn’t promote its own application.

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