The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has ordered Bell Mobility and Videotron to cease the practice of ‘zero rating’ their own online TV content for mobile customers – i.e. discriminating between their own content and third-party content so as only the latter attracts data charges and not the former. The CRTC found that Bell and Videotron’s respective Bell Mobile TV and illico.tv services violated the Telecommunications Act, in a decision which forms part of the regulator’s wider policy that all companies owning both television content and wireless networks will no longer be allowed to offer their own content on mobile devices without it counting against the user’s monthly data allowance. As reported by Reuters, CRTC chairman Jean-Pierre Blais indicated in a phone interview that the rulings are related to ‘net neutrality’ – the principle that internet access providers should treat all data on the internet equally – but held back from wholeheartedly supporting the net neutrality philosophy. Mr Blais commented specifically on Bell’s service: ‘[Bell] weren’t applying the cost associated with [users] seeing the Bell mobile [TV] services, but if you were watching YouTube or another video service it would count against the [monthly data] cap. That’s the problem. There is no different treatment [allowed] 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.’
The CRTC yesterday directed Bell Mobility to eliminate its unlawful practice with respect to data charges for Bell Mobile TV – which has over 1.5 million users – by 29 April 2015, while directing Videotron to confirm by 31 March 2015 completion of its previously planned withdrawal of its illico.tv app for Blackberry- and Android-based phones (which had been planned for 31 December 2014).