Zero rating and net neutrality
Until June 28, 2016 the CRTC is accepting submissions ahead of hearings they'll be holding this fall on the issue of zero-rating: when internet service providers give users access to certain apps or services, without charging the user for the data they use.
We last talked about zero-rating on Spark in January, when there was a debate in India over Facebook's Free Basics program. Free Basics offered users access to Facebook and select other services, which wouldn't count towards their data usage. But that program was never available to users in North America, so where does the law stand on zero-rating and net-neutrality here in Canada and in the United States?
Geoff White is external council to the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC), which advocates on behalf of consumer interests in the telecommunications and broadcasting sectors. They have appeared in front of the CRTC in the past, and they likely be involved in the hearings on zero-rating this fall. He says that the law around net neutrality "really comes from traditional law under telecommunications that deals with unjust discrimination. That's in the Telecommunications Act. It's very much a question now about, as the internet evolves so rapidly, whether or not the traditional legislative framework that applied to plain old telephone service is still relevant and applicable to modern day broadband services. And that's exactly what the Federal Communications Commission in the US has been looking at in recent months."
The CRTC will hold a public hearing on the issue of zero-rating on October 31st.
We contacted Bell and Videotron for this story, but did not receive statements from either before our deadline.