Canada aims to boost net neutrality with new framework

A newly designed framework which prevents telecom providers from engaging in ‘harmful’ zero-rating has been issued by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC).

Zero-rating is a practice of selectively pricing certain apps and services by not counting them against a customer's data cap. The ruling strengthens Net Neutrality in the country, and will shape how Canadians use the Internet for years to come.

The digital rights group OpenMedia has welcomed the ruling, noting that telecom companies use zero-rating schemes to artificially pick winners and losers online, and to deflect pressure from customers for larger and more affordable data caps, or an end to data caps altogether. The group campaigned for an end to zero-rating and data caps throughout this proceeding, and says that while the CRTC could have gone further, the ruling is still a very positive step in the right direction.

Over 55,000 Canadians signed OpenMedia's petition asking the CRTC to ban zero-rating and to end data caps. Josh Tabish, campaigns director with OpenMedia, said: “Zero-rating is anti-competitive, bad for consumers, and harms innovation in our digital economy. While Canadians still want to see data caps abolished, we are pleased to see the CRTC plant a flag that will prevent Big Telecom from exploiting data caps to pick and choose winners and losers online.”

Tabish continued: “This will ensure ISPs are unable to act as gatekeepers, and shows Canada continues to be a global leader on net neutrality. With the U.S. having just backed away from its own investigation into zero-rating, and the future of its net neutrality rules hanging in the balance, Canada looks like an increasingly attractive place to foster innovation online.”

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