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AT&T, Verizon face investigation from French telecom regulator

The two carriers lose a bid to keep their deals with bandwith providers a private affair.


AT&T and Verizon will no longer be able to keep the wraps on any special deals with bandwith providers in France.

France's Conseil d'Etat ruled yesterday that French regulator ARCEP does have the power to investigate the dealings between the two carriers and bandwidth providers. Both AT&T and Verizon had filed a complaint in June of 2012 asking for an annulment of a new regulation that requires operators to provide ARCEP with semi-annual reports on their Internet traffic practices. But the latest ruling found in favor of the legality of collecting such information.

The major issue involved here is net neutrality. French regulators want to make sure that relationships are running smoothly between ISPs such as AT&T and Verizon and their Internet backbone providers. In the past, certain ISPs have been suspected of throttling Internet traffic. Such ISPs have also been singled out for charging extra money to backbone providers to carry bandwith-heavy content to Internet users.

"The Conseil d'Etat also concluded that ARCEP's information gathering campaigns were necessary and proportionate to the regulator's ability to meet the responsibilities assigned to it by law, notably in light of the net neutrality provisions resulting from the transposition of the EU's third Telecoms Package," ARCEP said in a statement on its Web site.

The ruling could also affect Verizon and AT&T beyond just Europe.

"The Conseil d'Etat confirmed that ARCEP has the power to gather information in this way from ISPs and PPOCS (providers of public online communication services). The Court thereby also upheld ARCEP's power to query all market undertakings, including those located outside the European Union whose business and/or activity could have a significant impact on internet users in France," ARCEP said.

(Via Gigaom)