Mobile TV Practices of Rogers, Bell and Videotron Questioned by CRTC

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The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC): “committed to ensuring that Canadians – as citizens, creators and consumers – have access to a world-class communication system,” is investigating, what is coming down to be a possible Net Neutrality case of abuse.  This is a perfect example of why there needs to be some type of law in place to protect the download privileges of all consumers and businesses, such as Netflix.  Under the topic of ‘What is the Bell TV app and how do I use it” it clearly states the following:

“Using the Bell TV app on the Bell mobile network does not count towards your overall data usage.  Mobile TV usage is tracked separately.  The Mobile TV add-on includes 10 hours of viewing and we will send you a text message when you are approaching your limit.”

They keys here are that: One, viewing TV while using their app will not count towards your data usage and second that it is a separate ten hour time frame and has nothing to do with data usage…in other words, you can use all of the data that you want too, during that 10 hour period.  This is in direct opposition if you want to use a third party’s (read that as competitor’s) app, such as Netflix, YouTube, Pandora, etc. where their usage deducts from your data pool each time that they are used.

The CRTC decided to investigate after receiving two separate complaints – one by the University of Manitoba postgrad Ben Klass about Bell and another by the Public Interest Advocacy Group about Rogers and Videotron.  They are asking questions about how they treat the data sent over their networks – does their own TV app have first priority if the bands get crowded with usage – do they in anyway ‘throttle’ the data that say, Netflix customers are trying to use versus their own TV programming, or more specifically – “If there is congestion in the wireless access network, is priority given to the Mobile TV App, Internet or voice services? Elaborate on the fact that Bell needs to use traffic management practices but at the same time encourages its consumers to use the Mobile TV App service that consumes considerable bandwidth on the wireless network.”

According Bell’s website, “Watching TV with the Bell TV app … uses about 0.5 GB of data [per hour],” and going over that will result in added costs.  Given the ten hours of free time, that amounts to an extra 5GB of data being used on their bandwidth each month by each subscriber using their add-on TV app.  Since all carriers reserve the right to limit the speed of its customers’ data during times of network congestion, these questions become very valid ones.

What is so sad is the way that the carriers justify or tip-toe around the questions saying that mobile TV is in its infancy so customers benefit by being able to watch it without worrying about data usage and despite their policies towards bandwidth, services like Netflix and YouTube are growing at a faster rate than their services – so that makes it okay?  It will be interesting to see the outcome of this probe, which could have long lasting effects on Net Neutrality until official guidelines are passed.

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