Canada's BCE appeals mobile TV rate ruling

Mon Feb 23, 2015 12:35pm EST
 
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TORONTO Feb 23 (Reuters) - BCE Inc, Canada's largest telecommunications company, will appeal a ruling that blocks it from sending its own content to customers' mobile devices for lower rates than it charges for transmitting third-party data.

BCE, which operates under the Bell brand, and other large domestic telecoms have bought up media assets in recent years to exert more control over the programming they send. Last month's ruling from a national watchdog was seen as a major setback.

In a filing Reuters saw on Monday, BCE said the Bell Mobile TV service it sells to about 1.5 million of its wireless customers should be treated differently than content from rival media companies such as Netflix Inc and Google Inc's YouTube.

Montreal-based BCE said the mobile TV product, which costs customers C$5 ($4) a month for 10 hours of content, is an extension of its broadcasting services. It said the service should therefore be exempt from telecom law that prohibits Internet service providers from discriminating between different pieces of content, an issue known as "net neutrality."

Late last week, BCE sought permission to appeal a Jan. 29 decision by the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission, which regulates both broadcasting and telecommunications.

"The CRTC should be supporting Canadian broadcast innovations like Bell Mobile TV, not trying to inhibit them," Bell spokeswoman Jacqueline Michelis wrote in an email. "The CRTC itself considers the service a broadcast undertaking and should have regulated it in that way but didn't, which is why we are turning to the court."

The Federal Court of Appeal would hear the case. (Reporting by Euan Rocha and Alastair Sharp; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)