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France contemplates charging Google and other content providers for online traffic


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Justin Sullivan

Could France begin charging Google and other prominent content providers for the right to use their networks?

French tech experts are bandying about the idea of presenting content companies with a bill for the right to make big profits off the internet traffic that uses their networks.

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On Jan. 15, a debate on the matter will be conducted by Industry Minister Arnaud Montebourg and French Digital Economy Minister Fleur Pellerin, according to Bloomberg.

Pellerin said that she will speak with Google's French representatives before that date, Bloomberg wrote. 

The idea appears to have originated after a public row between French ISP Free and Google, after Free began blocking online advertisements for paying customers, wrote The New York Times. Free argued that it didn't want to carry the copious volume of traffic Google and other popular sites can generate.

Free is also suspected of holding videos from Youtube — a Google company — "hostage" in an effort to solicit payments from backbone carrier Cogent, wrote

Pellerin ordered Free to stop blocking the advertisements, arguing that an "internet service provider cannot unilaterally implement such blocking," and that the practice was not consistent with the notion of a free, open internet.

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That's good news for websites which rely almost exclusively on advertisements to make money, which could be in serious trouble if ISPs begin blocking such content.

However, Pellerin had her own reservations about Google's thus-far unfettered access to French networks.

“What solutions do Internet providers have when faced with content providers who use their networks but don’t invest in them?” she speculated on Monday, according to Russia Today.