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DIGITAL AFFAIRS

The Digital Republic Act strengthens Arcep's powers,
opens the way for new forms of regulation and tasks the Authority with protecting net neutrality 

Paris, 10 October 2016

Arcep welcomes the work performed by the French Government and Parliament which enabled the adoption of the Digital Republic Act on 7 October.

Among the many provisions in support of digital affairs, several measures come to strengthen Arcep's responsibilities in its role of architect and guardian of internet and fixed and mobile telecom networks. These measures give Arcep the means to implement the priorities identified in the conclusions of its strategic review, which were made public on 19 January of this year.

Protecting net neutrality

Following the adoption of European regulation on open internet access and of the BEREC guidelines (see the press release of 30 August 2016), the Digital Republic Act introduces the principle of net neutrality into the national legal framework, and endows Arcep with an investigatory and sanctioning power to ensure compliance. Arcep will thus be able to fully satisfy its mandate as custodian of the principle of net neutrality.

Coverage maps available as open data files

In light of the high expectations attached to mobile operators' coverage maps, Arcep has launched a project to enhance the coverage maps that operators publish, to more closely match users' actual experience (see the press release of 28 July 2016). This progress is also made possible by the Digital Republic Act which will enable Arcep to make these maps available as open data files. This means that anyone will be able to use them and develop innovative applications, notably in the area of comparing operators. Local players will, for instance, be able to perform their own monitoring of superfast broadband and mobile network rollouts in their area. This new mandate furthers the construction of data-driven regulation, which is one of the new forms of regulatory intervention that Arcep identified as part of its strategic review.

Encouraging fibre rollouts

The Digital Republic Act also strengthens Arcep's ability to incentivize superfast network rollouts. These powers include the "fibre zone" system whose aim is to stimulate investment in networks, and to encourage the switch to optical fibre. Based on proposals from Arcep, the Minister will now set the terms and conditions for granting the status of "fibre zone," as well as the rights and obligations attached to this status. Arcep is has also been given the responsibility of granting "fibre zone" status.

Encouraging experimentation

Lastly, in a bid to free up innovation, a framework for the experimental use of frequencies and numbers has been defined: Arcep can, under certain conditions, temporarily relax an operator's obligations, to support its efforts to develop an innovative technology or service, from a technical or commercial standpoint.

Consolidation of Arcep's investigatory powers

The Act updates Arcep's investigatory powers, giving the Authority tools adapted to its expanded responsibilities, notably with respect to net neutrality. In particular, it sets out the conditions under which the seizure of documents, particularly digital ones, can be carried out within enterprises, along with the terms and conditions for making useful determinations based on a website.


Annex

The main articles in the Digital Republic Act that pertain to Arcep

Article 40 defines net neutrality and tasks Arcep with implementing it, in accordance with Regulation 2015/2120 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 November 2015, laying down measures concerning open internet access. This article also clarifies the fact that, when it believes there is a danger that an operator will not meet its obligations when due, Arcep can require said operator to comply ahead of time.

Article 42 stipulates that, as of 1 January 2018, all new terminal equipment that is to be sold or rented in France must be compatible with the IPV6 standard.

Article 43 clarifies and reinforces the conditions under which the Minister responsible for electronic communications and Arcep can conduct an investigation of operators.

Article 46 officially recognises Arcep's status of "autorité administrative indépendante" (quasi non-government organisation), and establishes gender parity for its Executive Board, with the exception of the Chair.

Article 61 provides for a reciprocal request for opinion between Arcep and CNIL.

Article 71 stipulates that, on a proposal from Arcep, the Minister responsible for electronic communications will set the terms and conditions of "fibre zone" status within the timeframe set by the Conseil d'Etat decree, along with any obligations attached to granting this status. "Fibre zone" status will be granted by Arcep. The decision on granting said status details the obligations incumbent on the party requesting it, and is forwarded to the Minister.

Article 79 doubles the maximum penalties that can be imposed on an operator for failing to comply with a formal notice to meet the coverage obligations listed in its frequency licence.

Article 80 stipulates that Arcep will make available to the public in an electronic format, with an easily reusable standard and citing its original sources, the digital coverage maps of France that electronic communications providers are required to publish, along with the data used to create them. The list of required data is determined by Arcep and supplied by operators.

Article 92 allows Arcep to suspend, for a maximum two years, some of the obligations normally incumbent on an operator that has been granted permission to use frequency or numbering resources for experimental purposes.



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