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The Post n°21 (July 2018)

Why the net neutrality debate remains relevant

On June 13 this year, BEREC and TRAI released a joint statement on net neutrality.

Why was it important for the two bodies to come together on this issue? For a variety of reasons, and especially due to the interplay of opposing tensions inherent in the policy:

1. Net neutrality is easy to explain in the inexact language of everyday use. But difficult to describe with the precision that would stand up to legal scrutiny.
2. Any deviation from the principle is blasphemy to its supporters, but the policy must admit exceptions in practice. Even Tim Wu’s seminal paper brings that out.
3. There can be a desire to allow exceptions where the objective is benevolent. Yet, the same exception could, and often does, lead to pernicious outcomes in identical other cases.

An effort to find common ground, and also appreciating the differences, deepens our understanding of the nature of the problem. For instance, BEREC favours the case-by-case, ex post approach to zero rating, whereas TRAI has opted for an ex-ante ban. But in India, the low prices of data and generous usage caps make marginal use of data zero-rated anyway!

The Joint Declaration and the MOU signed at the 35th BEREC Plenary would help regulators in Europe and India work together in developing tools for monitoring the violations and in sharing data. This collaboration is necessary not only for enforcement actions but also for developing policy more suitable for pipes that are no longer dumb.

Net neutrality is to data pipes what an alloying element is to physical pipes: protects the pipes from the build-up of corrosion, thus keeping them clean and robust.

TRAI Chairman RS Sharma

> Read The Post n° 21

The Post n°20 (June 2018)

Agreement on European telecoms rules: what of fibre rollouts?

A political agreement was reached on 6 June between the representatives of European institutions on the review of Europe’s Electronic Communications Code. Promoting access to broadband and superfast broadband networks via fixed and mobile “very high-capacity networks” is one of the stated objectives.

One of the key issues for France regarding fixed superfast network rollouts was to keep the existing framework, while consolidating the (notably symmetric) regulatory tools that have been in place for ten years now, to facilitate fibre deployments.

After lively debates between the proponents of competition and those in favour of a regulatory holiday to bolster investments in the new networks, the Code upholds the regulator’s ability to take action with respect to the SMP operator, while recognising how co-investment agreements can benefit the market, under certain conditions.

Ultimately, on this crucial matter, the new code draws its inspiration from our experience in regulating FttH here in France. So we will no see any dramatic chances to the regulatory framework that is already in place.

In addition to the issue of FttH network rollouts, the new code also seeks to adapt to new digital challenges. It also aims to lay the groundwork for closer collaboration between regulators in Europe within BEREC.

Philippe Distler, Arcep Executive Board Member

> Read The Post n° 20

The Post n°19 (May 2018)

Net neutrality in Canada, and why it matters in the digital age 

Net neutrality is an issue that has people across the planet stirred up. The massive increase in data traffic has led inexorably to traffic management issues. But, as consumers turn to digital platforms, it is paramount that they be able to make their own choices, take advantage of innovation and exchange their ideas freely.

In Canada, we have had a clear regulatory framework on the matter since 2009, the year we began regulating internet traffic management practices.

In addition, a new policy has been in place since 2017 that governs differential pricing practices, which is an issue that arises when identical or similar products are being sold to customers at different prices. When internet service providers (ISP) set different prices depending on the content, they are exercising a degree of influence over consumers’ choice of certain content. As a result, the CRTC stipulated that ISPs had to treat all data use equally.

We therefore have a rigorous framework in place and firmly support net neutrality. That being said, we also recognise that any regulatory provisions surrounding net neutrality must be flexible enough to adapt to the changes ushered in by new technologies. The future no doubt holds challenges in this area, particularly with the development of 5G and the Internet of Things.

We believe that net neutrality is essential because we believe that it is, above all, in the best interests of the Canadian public.

Ian Scott, Chair of Canadian regulator, CRTC

> Read The Post n° 19

The Post n°18 (April 2018)

Data have become a central part of all of today’s economic and societal debates.

We are only just starting to gauge the possibilities being opened up by the use of these massive quantities of data, which are an increasingly integral part of how businesses and markets operate. But what is also still only nascent is public authorities’ awareness of the ways in which data are being used, with respect to codes of conduct, consumer protection, privacy protection and competition law.

Employing users’ data to optimise online advertising is a good example of how the situation is changing. The ability to deliver targeted ads to an internet user based on their centres of interest, as revealed by their browsing habits, has revolutionised the online advertising sector. At the same time, the internet is becoming the largest advertising medium, and so underscoring the growing influence that digital networks have on our lives. Advertising needs to go after consumers wherever they spend their time, get their news or seek entertainment, and where, more and more, they go to shop for goods and services. At the same time, today’s advertising is a whole new animal: we can now send a highly targeted ad that zeroes in on a single person and the thing she is interested in at that moment. To this end, having access to data and to technologies that provide the ability to tailor advertisements to the website that users are visiting, in real time, has become vital to remaining competitive. Certain players are especially well equipped to go into battle. After having having analysed how the online advertising sector operates, the Competition Authority identified the reasons behind the current success of companies such as Facebook and Google. But, when it comes to exploring this topic with respect to competition issues, or in terms of privacy concerns or safeguarding against political campaign meddling, we are still in the early stages…

Isabelle de Silva, Chiar of France's Competition Authority

> Read The Post n° 18

The Post n° 17 (March 2018)

Identification at the heart of communications: we want to know who we’re talking to!

Back in the day, our phone numbers let others know where we were and who we were. Now, with our mobile phones, the notion of location has vanished and given rise to the perpetual question: “Where are you?”. And online apps have done away with phone numbers: the original “06” prefix assigned to mobiles in France has been replaced by the app ID. And the process of calling is more and more feature-rich, with video, end-to-end encryption, and so on. Today, new applications allow users to have several numbers on a single phone, a direct line to a single party, etc.

It nevertheless remains that the “classic” telephone offers the real advantage of interconnecting different systems, whereas apps still require every user to be employing the same application. Which, in turn, gives us a range of identities: Skype, WhatsApp, G-hangout, Facebook…

Why not then examine the means used to communicate these identities, and thereby keep the old systems’ good qualities, before declaring them obsolete?

Serge Abiteboul, Arcep Board member

> Read the Post n° 17

The Post n°16 (February 2018)

And what if we no longer had to walk to the end of the garden to make a call?

The Government reached an historic agreement with operators, thanks to the wide-reaching collaborative work that Arcep performed over the course of several months. One of these measures has gone almost unnoticed: Wi-Fi calling and texting. Even though we are all well aware of the trope — and recurring complaint made against operators – of having head to the bottom of the garden in the pouring rain just to get a signal. While it is true that coverage in rural areas will improve considerably, indoor connectivity will sometimes remain spotty.

This is why this new agreement provides for ubiquitous indoor coverage thanks to the use of Wi-Fi calling. This means that, regardless of your operator, you will be able to make calls on your mobile via your home box starting this year (and starting in late 2019 with Free). But, you might say, if I have a box, why use my mobile to call instead of my landline? Well, because everyone today uses their mobile to make calls: it is the device of choice for making calls and for accessing the web, and the only device used to send text message.

Once your operator has activated the Wi-Fi calling and SMS option (which, depending on the phone you have, is found in “settings” or “preferences”), you can call and text from home, provided your mobile phone is a recent enough model.

Monique Liebert-Champagne, Arcep Board member

> Read The Post n° 16

The Post n°15 (January 2018)

2018: preparing for the future

Arcep’s change in tack, begun in 2015, has translated into actions and results.

Pro-investment regulation has enabled the telecoms sector to get back on track. Arcep will continue firmly on this path in 2018, and will put its guidelines into action in the field. Decisive steps forward will be taken on fibre regulation, the business market and data-driven regulation. The announcement of a new deal for mobile is paving the way for a major paradigm shift, which will need to translate into rapid rollouts.

The positive momentum in the sector means that we now need to prepare for the future. France cannot waste its talent by constantly seeking to make up for lost time.

Arcep wants to be a regulator that unleashes power and energy, and throws open the doors for all the innovators – and I mean ALL the innovators. By supporting Internet of Things start-ups with its regulatory sandbox, and by keeping stakeholders informed about unlicensed frequencies. By galvanising the momentum around 5G, not only operators but every potential user of verticals (industries, infrastructures, public amenities). By guaranteeing the right to permissionless innovation on the internet, by upholding the crucial principle of net neutrality, and, looking beyond, by tackling the issue of devices (smartphones, tablets, voice assistants).

Watch Sébastien Soriano’s hearing with the National Assembly Economic Affairs Committee (in French)

Arcep’s pro-investment regulation, in detail (in French)

Arcep’s 2018 innovation-centric New Year’s message, in the era of Europe and a new deal for mobile

- Sébastien Soriano, Chairman of Arcep

> Read The Post n° 15

The Post n°14 (December 2017)

Those opposed to an open, neutral and innovative internet have more than one trick up their sleeve. To flush out unwelcome behaviour, Arcep wanted to analyse the ways in which devices and their operating systems could hamper users’ ability to access and contribute to the various online content and applications: users cannot have access to all of the content available online, and technical or pricing restrictions can limit the deployment or supply of an application. By the same token, barriers to switching can impede the freedom of users wanting to switch from one device to another.

Arcep has taken up the task of mapping out possible courses of action, by consulting with stakeholders, to better understand the mechanisms at work, inform users and encourage the emergence of the conditions required to ensure an open internet.

Françoise Benhamou, Member of the Arcep Executive Boar

> Read the Post n° 14

The Post n°13 (November 2017)

Competition and investment in network industries

Everything today is getting connected to the Internet, from e-Health, to connected cars and precision farming. We need to offer high-speed Internet connections and ensure widespread 5G mobile access.

A lot of the necessary investment will result from competition; there is no trade-off between competition and investment. To the contrary, competition is a key driver for investment in telecoms networks. When companies compete fiercely, they invest, and in turn spur their competitors to invest. Take, as an example, alternative operators, which have invested billions in infrastructure in France, Italy or Spain.

We are confident that the European Commission's proposed Electronic Communications Code would help to cut the cost of building new networks. It would encourage telecoms companies to build joint networks in the countryside – with the help of public funds – where it wouldn't be profitable for them to invest on their own. Our state aid rules make it easier for governments to support that investment. We support appropriate mapping of network deployment, as this helps to channel public support to the areas most in need.

At the same time, investment is not an end in itself, as investment as such does not directly benefit consumers. It is the impact of investment on parameters of competition, such as lower prices, better quality of service or greater take-up of telecoms services that translates into consumer benefits.

The recent launch by ARCEP of a platform allowing consumers to signal issues encountered with telecoms operators is a welcome example of how authorities can directly help consumers.

Margrethe Vestager, Commissioner for Competition

> Read The Post n°13

The Post n°12 (October 2017)

To assist the government in its digital transition, this year Sciences Po and its School of Public Affairs inaugurated a "Public Policy Incubator".

A purely technological approach is not enough when designing the State as a platform for the 21st century: a digital revolution is above all a political, social, ethical, economic, etc. revolution. By bringing together all of these components, this education includes learning about digital culture and its core issues and challenges, areas of disruption, ethical and legal aspects, data, new technologies and information systems. It also means teaching a new culture of innovation, entrepreneurship, design thinking and management, paving the way for a culture of innovation and fostering the ability to tap into the power of the crowd when designing public policies.

It is vital to provide business incubator facilities, where students and researchers can work together on achieving concrete, needs-based solutions that will have a direct impact on the lives of citizens.

The only thing this innovation-centric programme – which is open to all government agencies, local authorities, businesses and members of civil society – needs now are your suggestions and contributions!

Yann Algan, Dean of the Sciences Po School of Public Affairs

> Read The Post n°12

The Post n°11 (September 2017)

Duality and convergence

Today, access to telecommunications is provided through dual infrastructures: fixed networks on the one hand, and mobile ones on the other. Both are in the throes of profound technological development: optical fibre rollouts for fixed networks, and 5G for mobile.

Arcep does not favour either of the two faces of this telecoms Janus over the other: the investments required in the coming years must deliver both the superfast access enabled by fibre to everyone nationwide, and significantly improve mobile network coverage and availability. It should also be said that the two technologies complete one another, and so achieve a form of convergence. To give one simple example: it is easy to imagine smart devices choosing the best routing path for calls and data in real time: Wi-Fi then fixed or mobile network access.

Jacques Stern, Member of the Arcep Executive Board

> Read The Post n°11

The Post n°10 (June 2017)

The internet has become an indispensable part of our daily lives and an essential economic infrastructure, but above all a space of freedom, exchange, trade and sharing. Some of us are old enough to remember the tremendous Web revolution initiated by Mosaic 25 years ago, which opened the doors to a new digital Library of Alexandria for each and everyone of us.

If the internet is built on a distributed and decentralised architecture, guarantor of resilience, freedom and innovation, the emergence of heavyweight players along the technical and information chain is creating a potential risk of new strongholds being erected.

In its 2015 regulation on the open internet, the European legislator enshrined this cardinal principle of freedom to access and distribute information and content, to use and provide applications and services without discrimination, via their internet access services, by imposing net neutrality obligations on operators, under the supervision of national regulators.

Arcep and its European counterparts are firmly committed to the task. On 30 May Arcep published its first report on the state of the internet in France, which explores this major issue.

Philippe Distler, Member of the Arcep Executive Board

> Read The Post n°10

The Post n°9 (May 2017)

Digital anthropology!

Our planet emits weak signals that humans no longer or have never known how to interpret. Billions of sensors dispersed across the globe will fuel the cloud and feed the algorithms that will allow us to anticipate events, and diminish risks by controlling their causes. Here, AI will help reduce disorder and render the second law of thermodynamics obsolete, and so create a less chaotic world!

Looked at this way, we can consider IoT a component of augmented reality, as humans will now have a weak-signal interpreter at their fingertips, right there on their mobile phone!

Ludovic LE MOAN, CEO of Sigfox

> Read The Post n°9

The Post n°8 (April 2017)

No half measures when it comes to investment

Is there a “magic number” for the operator population in a given market: one that makes it possible to combine low prices and high investment? This has been a longstanding conundrum in Brussels, where former monopolies and the leading banks are lobbying for greater consolidation. With the Commission’s Communications Code seeking to review existing directives, this somewhat fruitless debate is about to be overtaken by otherwise important, substantive work on the type of regulation capable of galvanising investment in the networks of tomorrow, and achieving complete coverage across Europe.

France in the meantime is in the process of finding, if not the perfect equation, at least a practical dynamic. The arrival of a fourth mobile operator has proven very successful for consumers, and a major shake-up for its competitors and the sector as a whole. But recently published figures from Arcep reveal an encouraging trend of stabilisation in the sector. More importantly still, that investments are on an upwards swing. Now that a new Government and Parliament are poised to take over the reins, we must not forget the impact that the latest mergers and acquisitions have had on investment, jobs, etc. So, in France as well, it is time to put talk of consolidation on hold, and focus instead on the major issues and challenges the sector is facing. Mobile coverage, fixed ultrafast access, 5G… therein lies the challenge.   

Sébastien Soriano, Chairman of Arcep, Chairman of BEREC

> Read The Post n°8

The Post n°7 (March 2017)

Monreseaumobile.fr is a new map service that has been available on the Arcep website since 22 March, allowing users to gauge mobile network performances with much greater accuracy. Still in the trial stage in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region, its aim is to remedy the disparities that users have felt between existing coverage maps and the reality in the field.

A prime example of data-driven regulation, this initiative puts information at the heart of regulation and gives everyone the means to compare providers’ performances, and so to make informed choices. Arcep hopes this will trigger a virtuous circle for operators’ investments in their infrastructures.

This “heavy dose of transparency” for the mobile market is especially vital as 85% of the people in France use their mobile phones every day, which today relay two thirds of all voice calls.

Martine Lombard, Arcep Executive Board member

> Read The Post n°7

The Post n°6 (February 2017)

Welcome to the conversation era

Facebook Messenger has more active daily users than the Facebook app itself. Alexa and other voice-controlled assistants are taking up residence in the homes of millions of families. “Alexa, what’s the weather like outside?”, “Alexa, order milk for tomorrow”, “Alexa, tell us a joke”.

65% of Europeans and Americans no longer download mobile apps. Most of us use only five apps on a regular basis. Social media sites are saturated, as is our telephones’ memory. As screen time is becoming more duty than pleasure, and media and services’ business models are based more and more on their ability to capture and hold users’ attention, an alternative has already emerged: the conversation.

The exponential progress of artificial intelligence, users’ fatigue with the glut of apps and, more generally, the use of smartphones more as efficient tools and less as fun gadgets, have given rise to conversational interfaces, or rather non-interfaces. No more accounts to create or learning curves to climb: complexity has been handed over to the technology itself, machines interact with one another and try to understand users’ intention in order to serve them better.
These little robots, nestled into our favourite messaging app, are improving day by day and their use becoming more streamlined. At once a consumer service already embraced by millennials, and a business service adopted in the workplace, chatbots are garnering attention thanks to their discrete interface, their invisible design, their desire to deliver the right service, to the right person, at the right time, and then be forgotten.
Good news for your valuable attention, welcome to the conversation era. 

Marjolaine Grondin, CEO, Jam

> Read The Post n°6

The Post n°5 (January 2017)

"From the telephone modernisation plan of the 1970s to today’s superfast broadband plan, our country has proven its ability to mobilise around vast infrastructure projects. But, working as closely with those in the field as possible, regulation also needs to be agile to support the development of networks, SMEs’ digitisation, high quality and innovative services. In other words, it must be open to experimentation, to operators’ initiatives to satisfy the demand for efficiency being continually reiterated by citizens and businesses alike, for which “it is indispensable, vital… it has to work!"

Pierre-Jean Benghozi, Arcep Executive Board member

> Read The Post n°5

The Post n° 4 (december 2016)

"User experience rules"

For once, here's an expression that doesn't come from the French.

When Mark Zuckerberg or Larry Page says that user experience rules, primes above all, they are expressing one of the most fundamental truths of this early part of the 21st century: the user experience is capable of creating new kinds of reality. When the experience of a chauffer-driven car is so much better than a taxi ride, we can always ban the chauffeur service but it will not be without repercussions. When an open source encyclopaedia like Wikipedia is much more accessible and wide-ranging that the good old Britannica, which was nonetheless compiled by the finest scientists on the planet, it creates new standards. Despite which States all too rarely take an experience-based approach, which some refer to as global design, remaining rooted instead in the realm of the theoretical. But the theoretical view will invariably much less closely match reality than actual, lived experience.

Of course, we could raise the objection that "user experience rules" approaches generally take only the interests of the few into consideration, and often those of highly capitalistic corporations. So this is the very area where work still needs to be done: having experience-based approaches that take all stakeholders into account, and which ultimately serve the common good. This is the spirit behind an initiative currently being mounted by the École des Affaires Publiques in Paris, in partnership with the Institut Montaigne and Epita. Allowing teams, immersed in high stakes social issues, to rethink the user experience with the help of digital technology, to enable more efficient government action, and possibly propose new normative approaches.

Gilles BABINET, Digital Champion - European Commission, entrepreneur

Read The Post n°4

The Post n° 3 (november 2016)

Many reasons are being put forth to explain the current rise of populism.

Often cited is the fear of digital, the destruction of a model that is leaving people by the wayside: a not terribly creative destruction that goes against Schumpeterian predictions.

On the flipside, we could postulate that by providing everyone, individuals and businesses alike, with a connection and an optimal quality of service, we diminish the feeling of being excluded.

This would mean increased investments, especially in rural areas and for our most disadvantaged.

- Françoise Benhamou, Arcep Executive Board member

Read The Post n° 3

The Post n° 2 (october 2016)


The Digital Republic Act at a glance

The Digital Republic Act (loi pour une République Numérique), which was adopted a few days ago, seeks to stimulate digital growth but also to provide a framework to ensure it complies with fundamental principles, such as the right to privacy and copyright laws.

It works to ensure that everybody in France has access to new technologies, with special measures for people with disabilities and those in a precarious situation. Several of its provisions strengthen the role played by supervisory bodies, such as CNIL and CADA.

Arcep's own mandate has been reinforced and its powers strengthened by the Act. Deputy Luc Belot, Rapporteur for the Digital Republic Act

- Deputy Luc Belot, Rapporteur for the Digital Republic Act

Read The Post n° 2

The Post n° 1 (september 2016)

sebastien-soriano Welcome to THE POST, our new monthly rendez-vous.

In it, you will find talk of regulation (a lot) and digital affairs (everywhere).

Architect and guardian of internet, fixed and mobile telecoms and postal networks in France, through its actions Arcep continues to be a passionate contributor to the wider movement of the digital revolution.

- Sébastien Soriano, Arcep Chairman

Read The Post n° 1