Emily Jackson, Financial Post:
With its ruling that Internet providers can’t give free data to consumers who stream certain music or video content, Canada’s telecom regulator broke from its American counterpart by reiterating its position that carriers should simply act as pipes.
The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission reinforced its position on net neutrality rules Thursday with a decision that confirms Internet providers will be treated as common carriers that cannot pick favourites among the content that travels across their networks.
The impact is significant as the Commission notes that it can affect competition, innovation, consumer choice, access and affordability as well as privacy in a section of the decision that comprehensively makes the case for the harms associated with zero rating. For example, with respect to competition, the CRTC states:
The Commission considers that competition in the retail Internet access services sector is best served, and the telecommunications policy objectives set out in the Act are best achieved, when ISPs compete and differentiate their services based on their networks and the attributes of the services on those networks, such as price, speed, volume, coverage, and the quality of their networks.
The Commission also believes that differential pricing practices that favour particular services, technology, or content would generally negatively affect innovation.
This is terrific news on two fronts. First, while zero-rating sounds alluring, it creates a de facto private marketplace with little oversight or regulation. In effect, it allows ISPs to determine which companies should succeed and which should fail on their network. This decision ends that capability.
Second, Canadians pay some of the highest prices in the world for internet and smartphone service. I hope this decision will truly require ISPs to compete more effectively on price.