CRTC provides new Net Neutrality framework

We had a recent discussion at IRN about net neutrality that involved the United States and the United Kingdom, which have approached the issue differently.  Now Canada, through the CRTC, have clarified their network neutrality rules.

From the Government of Canada:

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) today strengthened its commitment to net neutrality by declaring that Internet service providers should treat data traffic equally to foster consumer choice, innovation and the free exchange of ideas. As such, the CRTC today is publishing a new framework regarding differential pricing practices.

This framework supports a fair marketplace for services, cultural expression and ideas in which Internet service providers compete on price, quality of service, speeds, data allowance and better service offerings, rather than by treating the data usage of certain content differently.

The CRTC is of the view that differential pricing generally gives an unfair advantage or disadvantage to certain content providers and consumers.

The actual decision is contained within Telecom Regulatory Policy CRTC 2017-104:

In order to provide clarity to stakeholders, including consumers, content providers, and Internet service providers (ISPs), the Commission establishes a framework and sets out the evaluation criteria it will apply to determine whether an ISP’s specific differential pricing practice is or is not consistent with subsection 27(2) of the Telecommunications Act.

In this decision, the term “differential pricing practice” refers to the zero-rating or discounting of retail Internet data traffic. Practices associated with ISPs’ own managed Internet protocol networks are not included in the analysis and determinations set out in this decision.

The evaluation criteria are the following:

  • the degree to which the treatment of data is agnostic (i.e. data is treated equally regardless of its source or nature);
  • whether the offering is exclusive to certain customers or certain content providers;
  • the impact on Internet openness and innovation; and
  • whether there is financial compensation involved.

The decision appears to preserve a low barrier for Internet publishing by barring incumbent ISPs from creating pricing structures that could stifle online competition.