French Parliament issues a positive report on Net Neutrality

By EDRi · April 20, 2011

This article is also available in:
Deutsch: [Französisches Parlament veröffentlicht erfreulichen Bericht zur Netzneutralität |]

Last week, a trans-partisan/cross party parliamentary mission set up by the
Economic Affairs committee of the French National Assembly released a report
on Net Neutrality. After working on the report for more than five months and
conducting dozens of hearings, the mission led by Laure de La Raudière (UMP,
conservative) and Corinne Erhel (PS, socialist) presented a 145-page
document covering most aspects of Net Neutrality.

Overall, the report is extremely positive – probably one of the most
detailed ever issued on the matter by public authorities in Europe. Although
it draws to a large extent on the French electronic communication regulatory
authority’s (ARCEP) 10 proposals from September 2010, the report goes
further on several aspects.

In particular, the report includes a call for the legislative protection of
Net Neutrality, which is defined as “the ability of Internet users to send
and receive any application of their choice, to connect any device and use
the programmes of their choice, as long as they don’t harm the network with
a quality of service that is transparent, sufficient and non-discriminatory
(…)”. Interestingly, the non-discrimination criteria is interpreted
strictly, as the the authors explain that all traffic should be treated
equally, thereby rejecting the so-called traffic differentiation. Traffic
differentiation would have allowed for different treatments according to
types of traffic.

The document confines acceptable management of Internet traffic to cases of
legal obligations, unforeseen congestion or if the network’s security is at
risk. By doing so, it draws a clear line between the Internet and managed
services, which are defined as all electronic communications for which
operators guarantee a specific quality of service and manage traffic to that
aim. To make sure the difference between the Internet and managed services
is clear, the report further proposes to reserve the “Internet” label to
offers abiding by the principle of Net Neutrality.

The most political aspect of the report is its strong stance against content
blocking, as the parliamentary mission calls for systematic judiciary
oversight of mandatory blocking measures. The mission therefore opposes the
recently adopted legislation which grants the police the power to block
child abuse websites (LOPPSI law). The rapporteurs also suggest that instead
of acting preventively to block “illegal” communications, a repressive
logical approach -“whereby illegal activities supported by such
communications are condemned”- should be pursued.

One of the shortcomings of the report, however, lies in the fact that it
leaves out the issue of network management techniques and whether these
should be regulated. In February, a preliminary version suggested that
techniques such as Deep Packet Inspection should be monitored so as to
ensure that they are not used in a way that jeopardizes the privacy of
Internet users. It is unknown why this issue was eventually dropped from the
final version.

The work of the mission and the reception of the report by other members of
the Economic Affairs committee of the French National Assembly is a positive
step. But it remains to be seen if and how the report will actually
translate into actual policies. Rapporteur Laure de La Raudière has
indicated that she is ready to table a legislative proposal to implement
some of the recommendations of the report. But with the 2012 elections
coming up in France and considering that the agenda of the French Parliament
is already quite full, any vote on Net Neutrality before late 2012 is very
unlikely. But the content of the report already gives a clear signal to
telecoms operators that, for some lawmakers at least, the future of the
Internet matters more than their narrow business interests.

The proposals put forward in the document are the following:

A. First axis: enshrine Internet Neutrality as a political goal
Proposal #1: define the Net Neutrality principle
Proposal #2: establish promotion of Net Neutrality as a political goal and
give regulatory authorities the power to impose obligations suited for its

B. Second axis: strict supervision of Internet blocking
Proposal #3: further question the justifications for legal blocking
measures, despite their seeming legitimacy, due to their inefficiency and
the adverse effects they may lead to
Proposal #4: establish immediately a unified procedure which includes the
intervention of a judge

C. Third axis: protect the Internet’s universality and guarantee its quality
Proposal #5: reserve the “Internet” label to offers which respect the
neutrality principle
Proposal #6: create an Internet quality observatory
Proposal #7: assign Arcep (national regulatory authority) the mission of
guaranteeing an Internet of sufficient quality

D. Fourth axis: ensure sustainable financing of the Internet
Proposal #8: study the economic stakes attached to the Internet network
Proposal #9: carefully assess the creation of a European “data call

The report (only in French, 13.04.2011)

ARCEP has published ten proposals and recommendations for promoting a
neutral and high quality Internet (15.11.2010)[uid]=1317&tx_gsactualite_pi1[annee]=&tx_gsactualite_pi1[theme]=&tx_gsactualite_pi1[motscle]=&tx_gsactualite_pi1[backID]=26&cHash=2cde5a935b

Net Neutrality: An Encouraging Report From the French Parliament

Parliamentary Report recommend introducing Net Neutrality into the law (only
in French, 13.04.2011)

(contribution by Félix Tréguer – La Quadrature du Net)