CRTC begins hearing over net neutrality rules

By:
James Pearce
Published on:

Five-day hearing will assess zero-rating, traffic management and differential pricing for data

Canada’s regulator is set to assess its policy on net neutrality as part of a public hearing on internet pricing practices in the country.

The Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) began a five-day hearing at its headquarters in Gatineau yesterday (31 October) looking at “differential pricing” on internet services.

Differential pricing is when ISP charges different prices for access to different content or services, with some offered for free – known as zero rating.

The hearing follows complaints over Videotron’s Unlimited Music program, which lets subscribers stream select music services such as Spotify and Google Music without an impact on their monthly data allowance.

The hearing will also look at the broader practice of zero-rating, with some parties suggesting the regulator should ban data caps on wireless and internet plans, saying such limits run counter to net neutrality principles.

Net neutrality calls for all internet access to be treated equally, and CRTC introduced a policy in 2009 requiring ISPs to disclose any traffic management policies, in an attempt to prevent throttling of internet speeds.

“It is clear that differential pricing practices are occurring in Canada and will likely become more prevalent as data consumption increases,” the CRTC said, going on to suggest it plans to introduce new, broad guidelines.

“Rather than making decisions on such matters on a case-by-case basis, it is appropriate to launch a proceeding to analyse the policy issues surrounding differential pricing practices for Internet data use and to establish a clear and transparent regulatory approach,” the commission said. 

“Doing so will provide a measure of certainty for all stakeholders, including consumers, application providers, and ISPs.”