It took only five days for the first legal attack to target Videotron’s “Unlimited Music” program. You may recall that the service allows Videotron customers to stream Stingray, Rdio, Google Play, Deezer, and Spotify without using their data plans.
A consortium of Canadian consumer advocacy groups such as the Public Interest Advocacy Centre, the Council of Senior Citizens’ Organizations of British Columbia (COSCO), and the Consumers’ Association of Canada (CAC) have collectively submitted a Part I application to the CRTC, targeting Videotron’s newly launched Unlimited Music service.
In short, the consumer advocacy groups argue that Videotron is exempting certain subscribers from paying fees for certain types of data, which violates the Telecommunications Act and the CRTC’s Mobile TV decision.
They also argue that Videotron gives “undue preference” to certain customers and conclude that Unlimited Music makes Videotron’s mobile service “more attractive and less expensive to use at the expense of all other Internet use,” hence violating the rules laid down by the telecom regulator.
The fact is, there is a precedent that made headlines just earlier this year: Videotron and Bell were caught giving “unlawful preference” to their TV services.
On the other hand, Videotron says its Unlimited Music service doesn’t fall into the same category because it works with multiple partner services, and the company says it is open to teaming up with even more.
Geoff White, external counsel with the PIAC, however, argues that Unlimited Music violates the principles of net neutrality.
In an email sent to the Globe and Mail, Videotron commented on the allegations:
“Participation in the Unlimited Music service is open to all legal and authorized streaming service providers, and Videotron is not receiving any compensation from any provider,” the company said. “This popular, democratic service is already receiving a great response from consumers, and we are confident the CRTC will see it as a fine example of innovation and diversification in the competitive mobile marketplace. At the end of the day, Videotron’s customers greatly benefit from not worrying about [their] data usage.”
The CRTC declined to comment, but we will likely get a response to the application as soon as the regulator has enough information from the parties involved. That means about four months.