Federal court rules Bell can’t exempt mobile TV from data charges in appeal dismissal


In a ruling handed down June 20th, Canada’s Federal Court of Appeal upheld the CRTC’s decision to disallow Bell from giving customers the ability to stream content on its mobile TV app without incurring data use.

“The CRTC is pleased that the Court has upheld its decision, which ensures that new platforms for viewing content are made available to Canadians in a fair and open manner,” CRTC spokesperson Eric Rancourt told the Globe following the dismissal.

The Bell mobile TV add-on cost $5 per month and allowed subscribers to watch ten hours of TV without paying for any of the data used when streaming off Wi-Fi. This tactic incentivized Bell customers to adopt its mobile TV services and is commonly known as “zero-rating.”

Since the CRTC’s initial decision, Bell has charged separately for data usage in addition to the monthly fee for the feature, which is now $8.

Other carriers that employ “zero-rating” include Videotron, which offers a music streaming service that does not affect data use. The CRTC plans to hold a hearing on Videotron on October 31st, 2016, and states that when it does, the ruling will be “on the basis of the broader record on differential pricing practices.”

Questions investigated will include “How should differential pricing practices be defined in relation to the provision of Internet data plans over wireline and wireless networks?”

While zero-rating is not prohibited under Canada’s Telecommunications Act, it becomes contentious when it creates an unfair advantage for the carrier.

This marks the second loss for Bell against Canada’s telecom regulator this spring, with the federal government rejecting Bell’s appeal to stop internet resellers from using its fibre optic network in May 2016.

Related reading: Bell and the CRTC square off in Mobile TV trial

[source]Globe and Mail[/source]