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Smartphones, network boxes, set-top boxes, computers, game consoles, smart TVs, connected objects…
Arcep publishes a preliminary analysis of how devices influence users' ability to access the internet  

Paris, 29 May 2017

To coincide with the publication of its annual report on the state of the internet in France, Arcep is also publishing a first diagnosis of devices' influence on internet openness.

  • End-user devices, whose features and functions have evolved substantially in recent years, are a key link in the chain for accessing the internet

In the late 1990s, end-user devices mainly allowed users to make phone calls and send messages. Back then, users employed chiefly fixed devices to access the internet. Since the widespread adoption of smartphones in the late 2000s we have witnessed, and continue to witness, a tremendous change in how these personal devices are used. At the same time, because devices are such a key part of the internet access equation - as a link in both the hardware and software chains -- players like Apple and Google have acquired a crucial status.

  • Although setting out an ambitious goal, the Open internet regulation is focused primarily on ISPs

Europe's Open internet regulation 2015/2120 came into force on 30 April. It gives end users the right to access a neutral internet that is open to all content and service providers and to all innovations, and sets out a framework for governing the practices that operators may use to manage their networks, and to sell their subscription plans. As a result, while establishing the goal of an open network, the regulation focuses on net neutrality.

In the past, and notably during its strategic review, Arcep had already emphasised that in addition to internet access networks which are explicitly targeted by this regulation, the internet's openness depends on a technical chain, and that certain players, which are not targeted by the regulation, have the ability to limit actual access to certain online services and applications for both users and companies operating on the internet.

  • As the guarantor of net neutrality, Arcep believes that attention must also be paid to end-user devices and their operating systems

Arcep believes that impediments to a fully open internet may derive from factors that are not covered by the Open internet regulation. Among these factors, Arcep has specifically identified devices and their operating systems (OS), whose properties end users are not necessarily in a position to fully assess.

After a first round of work and interviews, Arcep has mapped out its initial findings on impediments to an open internet that derive from devices. The map identifies four main types of restriction: those resulting from the characteristics of the device being used (physical fixed or mobile device), those that can be attributed to software developments, those resulting from operating systems' and app stores' editorial policies and, lastly, those resulting from device suppliers' business models.

  • The published report is the first milestone in an action plan devoted to end-user devices and their operating systems

With the publication of this report on end-user devices and their influence on internet openness, Arcep marks a first milestone in the "open devices" action plan announced in 2016 in the report that concluded its strategic review. The purpose of map that Arcep has drawn is to serve as the starting point for future dialogue with stakeholders. Players are thus being asked for their feedback on these initial findings, but also to share their views on how this issue will evolve over time, using the following e-mail address: terminaux[a]arcep.fr.

Work on this topic will continue, through deeper analysis of the restrictions and their justification. Arcep intends to investigate the actions that may need to be taken, notably regarding the fluidity of end-user device markets, to ensure a truly open internet. This open approach, which should result in a more detailed report and a dedicated event in early 2018, will be coordinated by "Devices" project leader, Jennifer Siroteau.

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