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Rogers and Shaw have teamed up to launch a subscription video-on-demand service. Rogers Media president Keith Pelley says he believes the user interface of "Shomi" is better than Netflix.

CP Video

Canada's broadcast and telecom regulator has closed the file on an outstanding complaint over the Shomi online video-streaming service.

The Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) had argued that Rogers Communications Inc. and Shaw Communications Inc. – partners in the joint venture that owns Shomi – did not play fair when they launched a "beta" test phase of the service in November, 2014, that was only available to their own television and Internet customers.

PIAC complained about the "tied selling" of Shomi – tying it to other telecom services – in an application to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) in April, 2015.

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Since that time, Rogers and Shaw have made Shomi available to anyone who wants to subscribe for it as an online service, similar to the way Netflix Inc. works.

The companies took advantage of new regulatory rules introduced last year that allow streaming services to keep content exclusive to their own service as long as they are available to anyone over the Internet.

Shomi launched as a so-called "over-the-top" service in August while competitor Bell Media-owned CraveTV became available to anyone over the Internet in January.

In a letter to PIAC's external counsel, Geoff White, the CRTC said Tuesday that it has closed the file because the issue raised "is now moot."

The letter, written by CRTC secretary-general Danielle May-Cuconato, references the fact that Shomi has taken advantage of the new regulatory rules and is now available to all Canadians over the Internet.

"The commission finds that Shomi is complying with all current regulatory obligations," Ms. May-Cuconato stated.

"It would also appear that the Shomi programming service has always been available to authenticated Rogers and Shaw subscribers, regardless of the Internet service provider used to access the service, as well as any non-affiliated [television provider] that would contract for access to the service," she added.

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In filings as part of the PIAC application last June, Telus Corp. and Eastlink also objected to the way Rogers and Shaw rolled out the Shomi service, arguing it gave the owners an unfair head start.

Rogers and Shaw said a test period was necessary to work out technology issues and said they did make the service available to third-party TV distributors who wished to negotiate access.

But Telus and Eastlink suggested in their filings that Shomi did not make sincere attempts to negotiate access with them.

PIAC's complaint about Shomi came after it filed two earlier complaints about both Shomi and CraveTV. The CRTC "returned" those complaints to PIAC, suggesting the consumer group reconsider them after it introduced the new regulatory framework for streaming video services in March.

"PIAC is disappointed that the commission avoided deciding this issue (which is the second time in less than a year the commission has avoided deciding very important, real issues before them)," Geoff White, lawyer for PIAC, said in an e-mail.

"There were legitimate concerns about the tied selling of the service, there was wide-ranging support for the application from others in the industry, as well as a number of pleas to the commission from competing service providers to render a decision regardless of the subsequent behaviour of the service providers."

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