France takes a lead in ensuring Net Neutrality

The French telecom regulator ARCEP moves to ensure net neutrality. Gives ISPs 9 months to comply with ARCEP’s new pro-net neutrality position.

Net Neutrality
Net Neutrality

ARCEP, the French Regulatory Authority for Electronic Communications and Posts has published a new report titled “State of the Internet in France“. In the report, ARCEP took a strong pro-net neutrality position asking ISPs (internet service providers) not to block or throttle p2p or VPN traffic. The ISPs have nine months to comply with the French regulator’s directions. The report also discussed France’s transition to IPv6 (Internet Protocol version 6) that provides location and identification system for computers on networks.

The pro-net neutrality directions by ARCEP will force ISPs operating in France to keep their network open for all contents and services.

2017 Report By ARCEP

The report was published in May last month. It also includes an analysis by the French regulator about threats to an open neutral internet.

The organization observed that end-user devices and their operating systems “are limiting the right to access a neutral internet“. The French regulator also aims to develop a software capable of identifying ISP traffic patterns thereby flagging any potential issues such as blocking or throttling of content.

ARCEP: A Sharp Contrast To FCC’s Net Neutrality Position

It was presented by ARCEP’s President, Sébastien Soriano. It is in sharp contrast to the U.S-based FCC ((Federal Communications Commission) where net neutrality came under threat in a recent move by the FCC chairman.

Ajit Pai, FCC’s new chairman is set to change Obama-era net neutrality rules of equal access to the internet by putting forth a new set of rules that he opened for public comments earlier in May. The USA seems to be the lone exception as other countries are rallying for strengthening net neutrality laws. For instance, “Canada’s telecom regulator said all data delivered online should be treated equally by internet service providers,” reported Alastair Sharp of Reuters.

Other Pro-Net Neutrality Countries

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) even blocked one of the ISPs (Quebecor Inc’s Videotron) from indulging in ‘zero rating’, a practice of mobile network operators (MNO), mobile virtual network operators (MVNO), and Internet service providers (ISP) not to charge end customers for data used by specific applications or internet services through their network. Videotron was treating Spotify and Google Music preferentially by not counting the network traffic originating from these two services against their data allowances.

Examples of the telecom regulators of France and Canada indicate that authorities are not in a mood to allow ISPs to give “undue or unreasonable” preference to certain content providers. What if an ISP itself becomes a content provider, such as Verizon or Comcast?

This is where the directions by CRTC of Canada and ARCEP of France provide internet consumers an assurance of net neutrality.

Good News for VPN and p2p Software Providers

VPN and p2p software users might be relieved as the new report followed an official direction by ARCEP lifting the ban on VPN and peer-to-peer in some ISPs. It has been a known practice of several ISP, especially those operating in the US to block VPNs. Comcast degraded BitTorrent P2P traffic in its bid to crack on the VPN-originated internet traffic.

VPNs, if used in a positive manner, ensure that an Internet user’s digital footprints remain anonymous saving from hackers and excessive government tracking. People are using VPNs, password managers, and abstinence from using public Wifi hotspots as means to secure their online footprints and data.

We can clearly see a trend in countries with authoritative regimes (surprisingly the US and Australia seems to be an exception to be part of anti-net neutrality group). Countries such as Turkey, China, and Australia are restricting VPN traffic from the internet. However, France’s ARCEP has initiated a counter-move which restores VPN traffic on several ISPs in France.


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