Net Neutrality Neutralised in France?

Paris, 12 March 2013 — Questioned by the French government on the need to legislate on the protection of freedoms on the Internet, the National Digital Council (Conseil national du numérique or CNNum) published today an opinion on Net neutrality1 [fr]. It recommends that the French government makes this principle of non-discrimination into law, broadening its scope to include search engines and other online services. But by overbroadening the neutrality principle, the CCNum's recommendations could result in a meaningless law.

The CNNum's opinion2, if it suggests advances for the protection of citizens by calling on the French government to enshrine the principle of Net neutrality into law, blurs this concept by trying to also include search engines and “social networks”3.

But in extending the principle of Net neutrality to all kinds of Internet actors, the National Digital Council overlooks the main issue at stake: establishing specific measures concerning telecom operators' obligations. No actual sanctions are proposed to implement the Net neutrality principle in the face of restrictions imposed by operators.

This dilution of the concept of Net neutrality combined with the absence of binding measures unfortunately raises fears that the National Digital Council's report will not lead to any efficient or even applicable measure.

“The National Digital Council has failed to propose a strong and effective protection of Net neutrality. In trying to solve different problems with one magic bullet, this opinion could result in a neutralised neutrality that won't solve anything. As have already done the Netherlands, Slovenia, Chile and Peru, France must legislate to protect Net neutrality and include sanctions against operators that illegitimately restrict access to online communications. If the future law promised by the government were to follow the National Digital Council's recommendations and only protect a vaguely defined neutrality, the Parliament would then have to amend the text for it to have any legs.” concluded Jérémie Zimmermann, spokesperson for citizen advocacy group La Quadrature du Net.

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  • 1. Net neutrality, or network neutrality, is a founding principle of the Internet which guarantees that telecoms operators do not discriminate online content, services or applications, be it according to the source, the recipient, or the nature of the information being transmitted. This principle ensures that all users, whatever their resources, access the same and whole network, and makes freedom of communication and innovation possible.
  • 2. See also its report: [fr]
  • 3. These online services are defined as “access and communication services open to the public” (our translation)