Canada regulator says wireless providers must treat content equally

Thu Jan 29, 2015 3:24pm EST
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By Alastair Sharp

TORONTO (Reuters) - Canadian companies that own both television content and wireless networks will no longer be allowed to send their own content to customer mobile devices without it counting against monthly limits on the amount of data customers use, the country's telecom regulator said on Thursday.

The issue echoes broader debate on the merits of what is often called net neutrality, the principle that Internet providers and governments should treat all data on the Internet equally.

It was brought to the fore by public complaints that BCE Inc's (BCE.TO: Quote) Bell Mobility unit and Quebecor Inc's (QBRb.TO: Quote), Videotron unit have given undue preference to their own content. BCE and Quebecor are two of Canada' biggest telecom companies.

"They weren't applying the cost associated with seeing the Bell mobile services, but if you were watching YouTube or another video service it would count against the cap. That's the problem," Jean-Pierre Blais, chairman of the regulator, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), said in a phone interview.

"There is no different treatment between content you control and content you don't control. I don't like the phrase net neutrality, but it is similar to that, there aren't fast lanes and slow lanes," he said.

Several of Canada's big telecom companies have bought broadcasting and other media assets in a trend known as vertical integration, while broadcasters and distributors have also struggled with the emergence of cheaper online alternatives.

The CRTC said Videotron has already pulled its offending product,, and that Bell Mobility has until April 29 to abide by the ruling.

BCE said it was shocked by the ruling, which will affect 1.5 million subscribers to its mobile-TV offerings, of which it said only 20 percent were Bell Media content.   Continued...

Pierre Dion, president and chief executive officer of Quebecor and Quebecor Media arrives for their annual meeting in Montreal, June 19, 2014.   REUTERS/Christinne Muschi