In earlier posts, we have highlighted the impact of the Digital Republic Bill in France on regulation in the digital sphere, such as open data, the online cooperative economy and access to the internet. This post highlights the changes introduced by the Bill that will particularly affect stakeholders in the telecommunications sector. The key measures in the Bill of particular interest to them are:

Implementation of the Net Neutrality principle -this principle is enshrined in the Bill to ensure continuous and non-discriminatory access to the internet, in line with Regulation 2015/2120 of the European Parliament and Council. The French Telecommunications Authority (“ARCEP”) is tasked with monitoring the implementation of the principle and the enforcement of these new rules;

Introduction of the obligation to publish coverage maps – ARCEP must release to the public the coverage maps provided by electronic communications providers along with the data used to create them. These coverage maps will be available as open data files. Everyone will be able to use these maps and develop innovative applications, in particular for comparing operators. This confirms the plan announced by ARCEP last year at its strategic review to implement a data-driven regulation;

Introduction of incentives to foster superfast network rollouts – the Bill strengthens ARCEP’s ability to foster superfast network rollouts, in particular by granting ‘fibre zone’ status, an incentive to stimulate operators’ investments in fibre networks. The terms and conditions for the granting of this status, along with any obligations attached to the granting of it, are yet to be determined by the Ministry in charge of electronic communications;

Introduction of incentives to encourage experimentation – ARCEP can suspend, for a maximum of two years, some of the legal obligations incumbent on an operator who has been granted the right to use frequencies or numbering resources in order to support and facilitate its efforts to develop an innovative technology or service;

Increased investigatory powers of ARCEP – the investigatory powers of ARCEP are strengthened, particularly in relation to the seizure of documents; and

Introduction of requirements for the development of the IPv6 standard – as of 1 January 2018, all new terminal equipment available on the French market, either for sale or for rent, must be compatible with the IPv6 standard.

These changes are significant for those operating in the telecommunications sector.