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Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC)

Published Friday, April 21, 2017

April 20, 2017 – Ottawa-Gatineau – Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC)

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) today 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 today 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.

Quick Facts

  • Broadband Internet access services can improve Canadians’ quality of life and empower them as citizens, creators and consumers.
  • Differential pricing occurs when the same or similar product or service is offered to customers at different prices. These practices can be applied to both wireline and mobile wireless data plans.
  • The CRTC has established a clear and transparent regulatory framework to govern these 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.
  • This framework will be used to assess whether a differential pricing practice involves an undue or unreasonable preference or disadvantage.
  • The CRTC has developed an evaluation criteria to assess the degree to which the data is being treated the same regardless of the content, whether the offering is exclusive, the impact on Internet openness and innovation, and whether it involves a financial compensation. 
  • The CRTC’s existing decisions and frameworks, which now includes its approach to differential pricing, constitute a net neutrality code.
  • Vidéotron’s Unlimited Music service exempts several music streaming services from data charges under certain mobile plans (a practice also known as zero-rating).

Quote

“A free and open Internet gives everyone a fair chance to innovate and for a vast array of content to be discovered by consumers. 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.”

- Jean-Pierre Blais, Chairman and CEO, CRTC

Additional links

Telecom Regulatory Policy 2017-104 - Framework for assessing the differential pricing practices of Internet service providers
Telecom Decision CRTC 2017-105 - Complaints against Quebecor Media Inc., Videotron Ltd., and Videotron G.P. alleging undue and unreasonable preference and disadvantage regarding the Unlimited Music program
Telecom Notice of Consultation CRTC 2016-192 - Examination of differential pricing practices related to Internet data plans
Telecom Regulatory Policy CRTC 2009-657 - Review of the Internet traffic management practices of Internet service providers
Strengthening net neutrality in Canada
Understanding Internet Billing Practices and Pricing
Internet Traffic Management Practices

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