Music News

Published on April 21st, 2017 | by Alan Cross


Bad News: Streaming Music Services Will Still Count Towards Your Mobile Data Cap

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.

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About the Author

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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5 Responses to Bad News: Streaming Music Services Will Still Count Towards Your Mobile Data Cap

  1. Shaun W says:

    Interesting how this can be perceived differently depending on how you look at it. Openmedia, an organization that fights the good fight against unfair telecom standards like data caps and throttling, counts this as a huge win that they personally lobbied for. From their article:

    “We welcome the ruling, noting that telecom companies use zero-rating schemes to artificially pick winners and losers online, and to deflect pressure from customers for larger and more affordable data caps, or an end to data caps altogether. We campaigned for an end to zero-rating and data caps throughout this proceeding, and while the CRTC could have gone further, today’s ruling is still a very positive step in the right direction.”

    Whole article can be found here:

  2. Doug McMillan says:

    This is not bad news, it’s good. Without net neutrality, consumers will lose in the end. People need to look past their own short-term benefits.

  3. Mr. Shens says:

    This is good news, not bad. The last thing we need are telecoms picking and choosing which services succeed. They’ll inevitably pick their own, creating a massively unfair advantage to start ups. Just imagine if Netflix or Spotify was never able to compete.

  4. Lisa says:

    It’s only bad news for the ISPs. It’s good news for customers and content providers.

  5. Lisa says:

    It’s only bad news for the ISPs. It’s good news for customers and content providers.

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