Zero rated traffic is when an ISP or mobile carrier does not count the data used for specific applications against your data cap. It’s a sneaky and insidious process but one that is creeping more into the mainstream.
The finding that the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) gave that said Videotron gave ‘undue preference to certain customers and music streaming platforms’ was fair. I have to agree.
I have seen this kind of preferential treatment a lot in my travels. Whether it’s YouTube not counting against your data, Facebook, WhatsApp or whatever, offering an advantage like this to some platforms and not others is anti competitive. Fortunately, CRTC saw that and took action.
The US may be making the changes with net neutrality but Canada isn’t.
Too tight with data
Open Media says there would be no need for zero ratings if we could have our unlimited data plans back. They also say that allowing ISPs to decide who gets preference is a dangerous position as they get to choose. Any business would naturally choose the most lucrative option and not the best for consumers.
ISPs say that by offering preferential treatment to certain apps, they lower the potential costs for users while also being able to recoup the investment in network infrastructure. Not the most convincing argument I think you’ll agree.
The argument against zero rating of data is much stronger and strengthens the request to include more data in our inclusive plans.
“Wireless carriers in the European Union and Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development who do not zero-rate video, for example, offer customers eight times as much data for the same price as those that do.”
Another, stronger argument comes from the Indian telecom regulator; “Differential tariffs arguably disadvantage small content providers who may not be able to participate in such schemes,” the regulator said. “This may thus create entry barriers and non-level playing field for these players, stifling innovation.”
While CRTC initially said they were open to seeing how zero rating works, in the end they came down on the side of the consumer. Allowing zero rating was like opening a can of worms. What makes zero-rated video apps more important than radio? Why are some video or audio apps zero rated while others are not? Who gets to decide what is zero rated and what is not?
Fortunately for us, CRTC decided it wasn’t a good idea to leave all this in the hands of ISPs and decided to ban it altogether. Instead, it put together a much more sensible approach that should see equality for all traffic over the internet.