Court hearing pits independent researcher Ben Klass against Bell Canada in case that will decide future of Net Neutrality in Canada
David -v- Goliath case will determine whether telecom giants can discriminate against competing apps and services
The Federal Court of Appeal is about to hold a key hearing that will help determine the future of Net Neutrality in Canada.
Bell is appealing a landmark January 2015 CRTC ruling that prohibited telecom companies from exempting certain services from data caps.
The CRTC ruling was prompted by a complaint from Ben Klass, then a University of Manitoba graduate student, who noticed that Bell was offering a $5/month mobile TV service that enabled customers to watch up to 10 hours of Bell-owned TV channels without such usage counting against their data cap.
Ben argued that this discriminated against competing apps and services, such as Netflix, and calculated that Bell’s policy amounted to charging an 800% markup to watch non-Bell services:
“It turns out that Bell charges you $5 a month to watch 5GB worth of their own content. If you want to watch 5GB worth of Netflix on the Bell network, on the other hand, they charge you $40. That’s a markup of 800%.”— Ben Klass
The CRTC agreed that this practice constituted “undue preference” under subsection 27(2) of the Telecommunications Act, and violated the principle of Net Neutrality, which stipulates that telecom providers should treat all data traveling across their networks equally.
The hearing is scheduled to start at 9.30am ET, on Tuesday 19 January.
The Federal Court of Appeal is located at 180 Queen Street West, Toronto (corner of Simcoe)
“The stakes couldn’t be higher for the future of Canada’s Internet. The court will either uphold fair rules that allow a wide variety of innovative services and businesses to flourish on a level playing field. Or giants like Bell will be allowed to regulate Canada’s Internet with themselves as the de facto gatekeepers.
“This is truly a David vs. Goliath case that pits a young, independent researcher against a telecom giant that has earned its reputation as the most arrogant provider in Canada. In just the past 12 months alone, Bell has accused Canadians who access U.S. Netflix of ‘stealing’, attempted to restrict the range of affordable Internet services through a rarely-used parliamentary procedure, and are now trying to undermine fair Net Neutrality rules that serve as the first commandment of the open Internet.”
- Josh Tabish, Campaigns Director for OpenMedia, which is supporting Ben’s case.
The case is important because, without clear Net Neutrality rules to ensure the Internet is open and accessible to all players, providers like Bell and Rogers can force customers to pay more to access competing content providers - in Bell’s case, by demanding customers pay an 800% markup to watch non-Bell-owned content.
This is a result of Canada’s vertically integrated media and telecommunications market, where companies like Bell and Rogers own both much of the content Canadians consume, as well as much of the networks Canadians use to access that content.
Communications Manager, OpenMedia