France delays move to make Web giants pay for networks

Tue Jan 15, 2013 11:24am EST
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By Leila Abboud

PARIS (Reuters) - France backed away from legislation to make Internet companies including Google pay for the burden they place on telecommunications networks, opting instead to ask a commission to study the controversial issue.

Fleur Pellerin, junior minister for the digital economy, said the government would ask the National Digital Council, a panel of tech experts and entrepreneurs, to evaluate whether a law was needed and how it might work.

A decision on how to proceed is due by late February.

France's Socialist government is concerned that Web giants weigh down networks with traffic without contributing to telecom companies' investments in high-speed systems, echoing a position held by European telecom operators.

Big Web companies like Facebook, Google and Netflix reject the idea of paying telecom operators to have their content reach customers.

Many argue they already pay for bandwidth through private deals with "content delivery networks" or sometimes directly with telcos or cable companies.

Internet activists also oppose paying extra because it would create two-speed networks and violate the net neutrality principle that all traffic on the Internet is treated equally regardless or its source or destination.

France's debate on net neutrality and who should finance networks arose early in January when the country's second-biggest broadband provider Iliad launched a feature to automatically block online advertisements.   Continued...

French Junior Minister of Small Business, Innovation, and Digital Economy Fleur Pellerin arrives at the Elysee Palace in Paris to attend a meeting on investment strategy, January 10, 2013. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer