So many Canadians want to stream services like Spotify and Apple Music to their mobile phones but are terrified about blowing through the data caps on their mobile phones. I’ve spoken to many people about their reticence about going all-in with streaming and to a person, they all cited the expense of data as the biggest barrier. Totally get that, considering that Canadians pay some of the highest data rates in the world.
These same people were hopeful about the prospect of some carriers who were mulling plans that would allow customers to stream music without that counting towards their data allotment. The CRTC, however, has kiboshed that.
In a ruling that came down yesterday, the Commission ruled that Internet service providers, be they hardwired or wireless, cannot exempt certain types of content–like streams from Spotify et al–against data caps. All data, they say, must be treated equally and that ISP would better serve the public by offering more data at lower prices.
This all started in 2015 when Quebec operator Videotron launched a deal whereby customers could stream all the Spotify and Google Play Music they wanted without worrying about gobbling up data. It was a cool way to entice people to Videotron’s services. This is known as “zero-rating” or “differential pricing practice.” Translated, that means ISPs can charge different prices based on the type of service or app a customer might use. Another form of the same thing is “sponsored data,” a case where a company such as Netflix or Spotify pays the ISP to make sure their product is free to customers.
This whole issue would be moot if data caps were abolished entirely, something ISPs in other countries have already done. Maybe this decision will end up being a step in that direction. Fingers crossed.