Benjamin Klass, a PhD candidate at Carleton, and his supervisor Professor Dwayne Winseck have issued a significant report on international practices in what is known as “zero-rating”. This is the practice of a carrier not charging for the use of its bandwidth when it carries content it favours, while other sorts of content are charged for. Content not favoured by the carrier runs into bandwidth caps and higher prices, with the effect or intention that consumption is driven towards content that the carrier favours. What could possibly go wrong?
The CRTC is currently engaged in a review of these zero rating practices.
For those not prepared to read the 86-page report of the estimable Mssrs Winseck and Klass, let me save you some time. Their report cites a major international comparison by a company whose name is “Rewheel”. The term MNOs stands for mobile network operators.
The lessons to be derived from Rewheel’s analysis are clear and extremely relevant to the Canadian situation, and specifically to the CRTC’s differential pricing proceeding. For one, where markets are more competitive and mobile-centric MNOs play a greater role, prices are lower, data caps much higher and zero-rating rare. The more markets are concentrated and MNOs integrated into incumbent wireless and/or combined mobile wireless/wireline broadband groups, the more likely it is that the opposite is the case.
Klass has already won a major case in the Federal Court of Appeal in respect of the nature of applications sent over transmission facilities (argued by my friend and colleague Philip Palmer). The Federal Court took the side of the CRTC in its decision: that a broadcasting application running on a carrier’s capacity did not cause the underlying capacity to be turned into “broadcasting” for the purpose of the Act.
Winseck and Klass’ contributions to Canadian telecom policy are already significant, and their report on zero rating and how it has been treated around the world is another major contribution. Bravo to a very productive team!