New rules strictly limit when internet service providers can bill differently depending on the content Canadians access
OTTAWA, April 20, 2017 – The Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) today welcomed new rules generally prohibiting internet service providers (ISPs) from billing customers for data based on content. The new rules require that all data generally be billed at the same rate regardless of the type of data consumers access, effectively ending “differential pricing” or “zero-rating”.
“This is a clear win for Canadian consumers that future-proofs their internet access from arbitrary control by their internet provider,” said John Lawford, Executive Director and General Counsel of PIAC. “Gone are the days of unjust preference of certain services and extra costs for consumers that are not on higher cost plans.”
Under the new framework announced in today’s decision of the Canadian Radio-television and telecommunications Commission (CRTC), consumers, consumer groups, and competitors will be able to bring a complaint when an internet service provider engaged in differential pricing. The CRTC will consider whether the pricing is unjustly discriminatory, taking into account:
- the degree to which the treatment of data is “agnostic” (i.e. data is treated equally regardless of its source or nature);
- whether the offering is exclusive to certain customers or certain content providers;
- the impact on Internet openness and innovation; and
- whether there is financial compensation involved.
Applying this framework to Videotron’s “Unlimited Music” program, the CRTC concluded that Videotron’s program conferred an undue disadvantage on certain content providers and customers and effectively ordered Videotron to halt the program.
PIAC led an alliance of non-profit consumer groups known as the Equitable Internet Coalition (EIC) that challenged the Videotron practice. The Coalition included the British Columbia Public Interest Advocacy Centre (BC-PIAC), Consumers’ Association of Canada (CAC); Council of Senior Citizens Organizations of British Columbia (COSCO); and National Pensioners Federation (NPF).