Canada telecom regulator strengthens net neutrality rules

Thu Apr 20, 2017 6:49pm EDT
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By Alastair Sharp

TORONTO (Reuters) - In a move seen as a victory for net neutrality advocates, Canada's telecom regulator said all data delivered online should be treated equally by internet service providers as it blocked one company's effort to leverage content to win customers.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) ruled on Thursday that Quebecor Inc's (QBRb.TO: Quote) Videotron can no longer offer unlimited music streaming from Spotify, Google Music (GOOGL.O: Quote) and others to wireless customers without it counting against their data allowances, a practice known as zero-rating.

Videotron, which has until July 19 to comply, said the decision would prevent it is a new entrant from setting itself apart from established mobile operators.

The CRTC did not issue a blanket ban, however, instead saying it would rule on a case-by-case basis on whether such arrangements provide "undue or unreasonable" preference.

"On a technicality it leaves some wiggle room for some really creative attempts at zero-rating that can be challenged after the fact," said Laura Tribe, the executive director of consumer advocacy group OpenMedia.

"This is a really strong step for Canada in terms of being a global leader in net neutrality," she added.

The ruling, which covers both fixed-line and wireless internet, comes amid an ongoing global debate on whether suppliers of connectivity must treat all data equally, a concept known as net neutrality.

EU telecom regulators last year limited the extent to which some applications may be exempted from data limits.   Continued...

Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) Chairman Jean-Pierre Blais speaks during a news conference in Gatineau, Quebec June 27, 2013.   REUTERS/Chris Wattie