Arcep speaks

Closing remarks by ARCEP Chairman, Jean-Ludovic Silicani - Conference on network neutrality - 13 April 2010

Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear friends,

As we've been talking and debating since 9 o'clock this morning - and even through lunch for many of us - I'll keep these closing remarks brief.

I'd like to begin by extending my thanks to all those who took part in the different roundtables, and to the members of the audience for the quality and frankness of the discussions.

This has been truly instructive for all of us and will be very useful for public authorities (Parliament, government and ARCEP) as we go forward with our work.

Without, I hope, misrepresenting the significance of our efforts, I think that 5 broad conclusions can be drawn from this conference.

1. There is by now widespread agreement, if not consensus, over the fact that the current situation is not satisfactory and that certain changes need to be made.

There needs to be greater clarity in the relationships between the different players in the Internet ecosystem: network operators, content and service providers and users. So greater transparency on the economics of the Internet - something that is truly lacking today.

2. This principle of transparency must apply, first, to the relationships between network operators (large global networks and local loop networks) and the providers of content, applications and services.

. These players need to prove that they have "entered the modern world" by establishing mutually beneficial, lasting relationships which fit into the market environment while, of course, taking account of the specific nature of the Internet that has been underscored many times today and that does need to be sustained, which includes making room for peer-to-peer. The financial streams between these players need to result from contractual economic relations rather - and this is just my opinion - than a form of taxation. The creation of a tax is too often the result of a failed economic solution.

. These relationships, which are to be built or maintained, must not be opaque: a deeper understanding of Web economics is essential not only for private sector companies, but also regulators which may be required to intervene at a later date.

3. More transparency as well in the relationships between Internet access providers and users

Efforts need to be made to achieve greater transparency so that users are better informed of the terms of Internet access offers in general and, in particular, of what is covered by the term "Internet", as several speakers have suggested. Competition between ISPs indeed provides an initial guarantee of compliance with network neutrality and a good quality of service for all. But the Telecom Package asks us to go one step further and define what is, or is not, a service that warrants the qualification of "Internet access".

4. A certain degree of service management is possible, if two conditions are met:

i. if it appears necessary, for instance because of bottlenecks or when networks are overloaded with traffic;
ii. if it is performed in a transparent and non-discriminatory manner, in the sense given by a great many speakers here today and which we will specify further in the coming weeks.

On this issue, and others, there could well be distinctions made between fixed and mobile networks which are not subject to the same technical-economic constraints.

5. A certain degree of regulation is necessary

The debates today helped to underscore that the Internet ecosystem cannot fully self-regulate, and that we need to see more discussion between the players and, in some cases, public or semi-public regulation:

i. first of the content and services/network interface where, in addition to complying with competition regulation, sector-specific regulation would no doubt be useful to ensure non-discriminatory market practices;
ii. and, second, of the Internet access retail market between network operators and users.

As the different roundtables proved, especially the fourth one, the terms and the "depth" of regulatory mechanisms need to be defined in more detail, which probably means the involvement of the legislator to establish the ground rules and/or the regulatory instruments. Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet made that point this morning, as did several of the parliamentarians who are here today.

In any event, the regulation must uphold all of the freedoms with the scope and interrelation accorded them by the Constitutional Council and the European Court of Human Rights.

* *

ARCEP will continue its work on these various points, and in accordance with its mandate:

i. on the one hand, through the draft guidelines being submitted for public consultation in May, with a view to publication by the summer;
ii. and, on the other, at the European level, by helping to transpose the Telecom Package and by contributing to the work being performed by BEREC.

As Ms. Kosciusko-Morizet explained, the French government will be submitting its report to Parliament in June. Parliament will then have all of the elements it needs to make a decision - perhaps as early as the autumn?

But, and I will end my remarks with this observation, the more general issue of Internet governance also needs to be addressed from an international perspective, since it has indeed become a global strategic asset.

Here, France can play a central role as it has a tradition of balanced regulation that combines the implementation of lasting competition and the pursuit of goals that are in the public interest, which is precisely what is needed of Internet regulation. I also believe that the actions taken by French authorities in this area need to be stepped up. The Internet cannot be "governed" solely by a private "club" of players from the English-speaking world.

So, again, on behalf of the Board and all ARCEP departments who worked hard to organize this conference, for which I am certain we are all very appreciative, I would like to thank you for being here today and I hope you have a very pleasant evening.

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