Industry Trend Analysis - Zero-Rating Net Neutrality's Most Contentious Issue - JUNE 2017

BMI View: While there is broad global agreement that net neutrality must mean no blocking, throttling and paid prioritisation, there is a far bigger debate regarding zero-rating. Canada is the latest country to have banned the practice, but the situation in Europe causes more issues, as EU rules have not explicitly prohibited it, even if some countries have. Whether net neutrality allowing zero-rating still offers strong internet freedom protection is a question many regulators must answer.

The Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has moved forward with stricter net neutrality rules, declaring that all data should be treated equally and that differential pricing, also known as zero-rating, gives an unfair advantage or disadvantage to content providers and consumers. Zero-rating means exempting certain data traffic from a consumer's data allowance. The Canadian regulator has evolved its position towards stronger net neutrality rules over the years, and provides a contrast to the situation in the US. Furthermore, with T-Mobile Netherlands having won its court case against the local ban on zero-rating, it highlights one of our key global view of global regulatory fragmentation regarding net neutrality.

Canada, having started with a laissez-faire approach on net neutrality and zero-rating, has hardened its stance in the last few years, making it one of the strictest regulatory regimes for the practice worldwide through its new framework. This evolution has come incrementally, as the regulator initially banned operators from exempting their own mobile video services, as was the case with Bell and Videotron, before an opinion of the Competition Bureau argued that zero-rating harmed and stifled competition and innovation, with the exception where there is no financial relationship between the operator and the content provider. The latest framework goes even further, as it asks Videotron to stop its Unlimited Music Service, forgoing the exception recommended by the Competition Bureau.

A Growing Number Of Bans
Legislation Banning Zero-Rating
Source: BMI, National Sources

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