Paris, 11 July 1997
On April 1st, Paris TV Câble (Suez Lyonnaise des Eaux group) called upon the French Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (ART) to settle a dispute between itself and France Télécom over the charges levied and technical conditions imposed for Internet access provision via cable TV networks in Paris. A similar dispute, involving 18 networks, was brought before ART on April 18th, by Compagnie Générale de Vidéocommunication (Générale des Eaux group).
ART has just issued its determinations. The same rules were applied and similar factors were taken into consideration in the two cases.
The solution embraced by ART is simple and fair. Simple in the sense that ART has clearly defined the responsibilities of those involved, particularly with regard to three essential points:
- the operation and ownership of certain equipment (routing apparatus),
- the investment necessary to upgrade the networks,
- network ownership.
And fair, in particular with regard to the amount that cable operators will be required to pay France Télécom to use its cable TV networks.
Despite France Télécom's claims, ART has jurisdiction over this issue. Indeed:
- the Telecommunications Act gives ART the power to settle disputes arising between France Télécom, the owner of the cable TV networks, and service providers, insofar as such matters involve the provision of telecommunications services via these networks.
- Internet access is a hybrid service with both telecommunications and broadcasting components.
- The network operation agreements concluded between France Télécom and the two cable operators must be altered to allow for the provision of Internet access over cable TV networks.
- Paris TV Câble and Compagnie Générale de Videocommunication will finance, operate and own the cable routing apparatus so that the service is managed efficiently in commercial terms.
- As owner of the networks, France Télécom will be required to carry out any work necessary to upgrade them. The ensuing costs will be supported entirely by the cable operators.
- Maintenance costs will be charged to the cable operators. They will be set provisionally at 5% of network upgrade costs and will be finalised after a one-year operating period.
- The annual fee payable to France Télécom has been set at about three French francs per socket connected, which means about 4.5 million French francs will be charged for the Parisian network, and a similar sum for Compagnie Générale de Videocommunication's 18 networks.
Implementation and scope of the two decisions
France Télécom's cable TV networks must be upgraded quickly to allow for Internet access. ART has thus set a deadline requiring the contracts to be signed for network upgrading work by 30 September 1997.
ART recalls that these decisions only concern the provision of Internet access and not the provision of a telephone service via cable TV networks.
ART found that difficulties had arisen due to the complexity of the current situation, particularly with the overlap of responsibilities. It strongly recommends that the parties involved endeavour to simplify the situation, so as to encourage the development and enhance the profitability of cable TV networks.
High stakes : providing high speed access to the Internet for 3 million homes
The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (ART) recalls that Internet access via cable TV networks:
-is already technically possible (the service is available, for instance, in the 7th arrondissement in Paris, in Le Mans, in Annecy, in Strasbourg, in Nice and in Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines),
- requires limited additional investment,
- meets a demand from users.
Furthermore, all French operators have stated that the provision of Internet access via cable TV networks is strategically important for them.
Implementing the decisions taken by ART today will enable approximately three million French homes - almost half of the 6,700 000 sockets installed in homes, schools and businesses - to enjoy high speed Internet access.
It will encourage the take-off of the Internet which is important for the country and will benefit all users. Indeed, Internet access via cable TV networks means:
- higher speeds than those possible via the telephone network,
- usage with no time limits, as currently proposed in the contracts offered by cable TV operators,
- good quality of service.
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