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French Government Wants to Sacrifice Net Neutrality

Paris, 8 February 2011 – French Minister for Digital Economy, Éric Besson, has called for an end to Net Neutrality, a principle on which there seemed to be consensus among French and European decision-makers1. By giving telecom operators the possibility to sell prioritized access to the network, the government would put an end to equality among Internet users. Time after time, Nicolas Sarkozy's vision of the “Civilized Internet” that he is promoting at the G8/G20 level is coming to light: an Internet controlled by the State and by telecommunications and entertainment industries, while fundamental liberties are shunted to the side.

Using the outdated pretence of Internet trafic increase, which has been growing steadily for the past 15 years without any malfunction2, Éric Besson considers that traffic should be “regulated”, and wishes to give operators the possibility to “ensure a minimal quality of service for priority services3. Behind this technical wording, it is the Freedom of Speech of Internet users that is under direct threat.

Indeed, such an evolution of Internet traffic management would go against the original Net neutrality principle, which guarantees that data is transported in a non discriminatory manner, regardless of its nature, sender or recipient. The big losers will be citizens, since more expensive premium plans based on discrimination will put an end to equality among participants on the network.

Internet's democratic potential is thus directly put in jeopardy for the sole benefit of the telco industry. Clearly, the government is adopting the exact same anti-neutrality positions as large operators, such as Orange or SFR4.

“One of the most shocking elements in Éric Besson's speech is that he actually appealed to the great principles of democracy, fundamental liberties and innovation.”, says Philippe Aigrain, co-founder of La Quadrature du Net.

“Setting up discriminatory schemes within the network is the perfect tool to trample the Net Neutrality principle. By giving in to the demands of a few commercial operators on this subject, M.Besson sacrifices both freedom and innovation.”, adds Benjamin Sonntag co-founder of La Quadrature du Net.

“After his call to ban Wikileaks hosting in France, Éric Besson's statement gives a yet another example of how determined the French government is to control information and the Internet, at any cost.”, concludes Jérémie Zimmermann, co-founder and spokesperson of La Quadrature.