In January, the CRTC ordered Bell and Videotron to begin counting data usage within their Mobile TV offering. The ruling was from a November 2013 complaint by telecom analyst Ben Klass who found that both carriers were counting streaming usage based on hours, not megabytes, exempting its mobile TV services (Bell Mobile TV and illico.tv) from data charges. Competing services such as Netflix were billed the same as other apps, conveying unfair advantage to the companies’ own products.
The CRTC noted that Bell and Videotron “have given an undue preference in favour of subscribers of their respective mobile TV services, as well as in favour of their own services, and have subjected consumers of other audiovisual content services, and other services, to a corresponding undue disadvantage.”
As a result, the CRTC ordered Bell to “eliminate its unlawful practice with respect to data charges for its mobile TV service by no later than 29 April 2015,” and Videotron’s illico.tv app by March 31st.
Bell has started sending notices to customers of the April 29th changes, stating:
“The CRTC has ruled on January 29, 2015 that Bell is no longer allowed to offer Mobile TV viewing without impact to the data included in your plan. As a result of the ruling, you may notice a change to your bill with the change to Mobile TV. Effective April 29, 2015 you will still continue to have access to over 40 live and on demand channels, however data used for viewing on our mobile network will be rated using standard rates (from data included in your plan or add-on, or at pay per-use data rates, as applicable). 5 hours of WiFi viewing per month is included (additional viewing over Wi-Fi is $3/hour).”
Because WiFi usage wasn’t subject to the same regulatory stipulations as mobile usage, Bell will continue to offer five hours of free WiFi-based mobile TV use every billing cycle. To avoid subsequent bill shock, Bell customers will receive an in-app alert when they use 90% of the 5 hours of WiFi viewing, then a text alert when at 95% of the allocated hours. Furthermore, a text notification will also arrive after 90% of their monthly data has been consumed and also after $50 of data overages, as per the Wireless Code of Conduct.