When is zero rating net neutrality and vice versa?

Written by on July 11, 2016 in Guest Blog with 0 Comments

Red deer fight during the rut, UKThe zero rating battle is heating up around the world, zeroing in on differential pricing schemes. Now, the Canadian regulator launches a consultation on ISPs exempting certain content from data charges. In the zero rating battle there is never a dull moment!

At first, 10 years ago some Internet service providers openly discussed creating a two-tier system with a fast lane for websites and applications willing to pay additional fees and a slow lane for everyone else. Net neutrality emerged as a top Internet policy issue against this initiative and the was the beginning of the zero rating battle.

Internet users and emerging technology companies banded together to oppose the approach, arguing that all traffic should be treated in an equal manner regardless of content, source or destination. They noted that the two-tier approach could lead to unfair competition and an inability for startup companies to challenge established players.

Internet users won the zero rating battle, and years later net neutrality rules can be found worldwide. Indeed, the importance of an “open Internet” was recently affirmed by Navdeep Bains, Canada’s minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, who told an international conference that the economy depends upon it.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) established its policy response in 2009. The rules restrict content blocking or slowdowns and require ISPs to disclose how they manage their networks.

This is the development of the discussion:

If charging extra for content is not allowed, is not charging for content allowed?



The net neutrality debate has shifted in recent years to the issue of “zero rating” or “differential pricing”. It is about network providers exempting certain content from data charges.

The traffic management practice has flipped from charging extra for content to offering access to content without data charges and the fundamental concerns are largely the same.

The CRTC has launched a full consultation on the issue. The first round of comments was filed this week and point to a heated battle between telecom giants and consumer groups.

The sides:

For Zero Rating – Bell, Telus, Shaw and Facebook and Canadian Media Producers

Against Zero Rating – Consumer public interest groups, The competition Bureau.

Interestingly, many industry players are against. For example, Pelmorex Media, the owner of the Weather Network, states that “we are not aware of any alleged benefit from differential pricing which would justify compromising the current level of net neutrality in Canada and thereby interfering with innovation and open access to content on the Internet.”

A group of Canada’s largest radio station owners (including Rogers Media, Newcap and Corus Entertainment) also warn about the dangers of differential pricing, noting that it “could provide unlicensed or non-Canadian audio services with an undue advantage and/or cause an undue disadvantage to licensed commercial radio stations.”

In fact, smaller ISPs and telecom companies are also concerned with differential pricing. Tbaytel, a telecom company based in Thunder Bay, argues that “the practice of exempting certain service applications such as music or video streaming from a subscriber’s data plan cap should not be allowed.”

A CRTC hearing on zero rating and differential pricing is planned for the fall, but it is already clear that a retreat from Canada’s well-established net neutrality principles will face vocal opposition from government, consumer groups and a growing number of industry players.

More here, here and here.

This article was first published on Pricing Data Plans.

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About the Author

About the Author: Jonathon has been lurking around the Telecoms and Internet space for the last 20 years. He is now a man on a mission – that being the reformation of the Industry Analyst business. He is working with his co-conspirators on transforming the Industry Analyst world forever as an Expert with EMI. .


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