If the inquiry did not reveal any discriminatory practices in the terms governing interconnection and IP traffic routing between the two companies, it did confirm the relevance of ARCEP’s monitoring of these issues, and its goal of providing internet users with clear information on the quality of internet access services in France.
Paris, 19 July 2013
In response to a request received in September 2012 from the president of consumer protection association, UFC-Que Choisir, ARCEP launched an administrative inquiry to clarify the technical and financial terms governing IP traffic routing between internet service provider (ISP) Free and Google.
To this end, ARCEP departments queried the companies in question, along with the transit providers that relay a portion of the traffic between Free and internet companies.
Over a six-month observation period, the enquiry made it possible to ascertain:
- that traffic between Free and Google is relayed both directly, via peering, and indirectly through paid interconnection involving several international transit providers;
- that Free’s interconnection and IP data traffic routing capacities are congested during peak hours, as use of the most bandwidth-hungry applications continues to rise. This is an issue that all ISPs are having to contend with.
- The inquiry did not reveal any discriminatory practices in the terms governing interconnection and IP traffic routing between the two companies.
ARCEP reiterates that the quality of an internet access service on the user end depends, first, on their technical installation and the type of connection they have (optical fibre, cable, copper, cellular), second, on the type of choices their ISP and the content provider have made – particularly as a result of bilateral negotiations conducted in keeping with the freedom to trade and, third, the ordinary technical management of the networks for which each player is responsible, whether an ISP or content provider. These choices and this technical management will affect how the network core and interconnections are provisioned and, to a certain degree, the traffic routing policies implemented by the ISP or the content provider.
In a competitive environment like France’s broadband and superfast broadband retail markets, users are able to choose between the different available offers, based on the price and quality of the services provided, to ultimately choose the one that best meets their needs and expectations.
The inquiry did not reveal that Free was employing traffic management techniques on its network that differentiated traffic routing conditions based on the type of content, its origin, its destination or the type of protocol used. To wit, no practices contrary to principles of net neutrality were observed.
The methods used to relay internet traffic, i.e. transit or peering, and Free and Google’s respective ratio of use of these systems do not, therefore, require any particular comment from ARCEP.
- The enquiry did confirm the relevance of ARCEP’s ongoing monitoring of these issues, and its goal of providing internet users with clear information on the quality of internet access services in France.
Thanks to this specific example of the interactions between an ISP and internet companies, the inquiry allowed ARCEP to deepen its understanding of the relationship between these undertakings. ARCEP thus confirms the importance and usefulness of the systems that it has put into place to monitor both:
- developments in the configurations for interconnection and IP traffic routing between ISPs and internet companies, through biannual information gathering campaigns (need to monitor the markets and associated business models – see ARCEP decision of 29 March 2012);
- the quality of fixed internet access services, thanks to a biannual observatory. Starting in late 2013, this observatory will provide ARCEP and internet users with useful information on how each operator’s practices affect users (need for transparency). This system is rooted in the ARCEP decision of 29 January 2013.
ARCEP will continue to pay close attention to all of the undertakings affected by these issues.