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France Demands Skype Register As a Telco 209

Posted by Soulskill
from the regulators-mount-up dept.
jfruh writes "Skype made a name for itself by largely bypassing the infrastucture — and the costs, and the regulations — of the legacy telecommunications industry. But now the French telecom regulator wants to change that, at least in France. At issue is not the service's VoIP offering, but rather the Skype Out service that allows users to dial phones on traditional networks. Regulators say that this service necessitates that Skype face the same regulations as other telecoms."
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France Demands Skype Register As a Telco

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  • by SerpentMage (13390) <ChristianHGross AT yahoo DOT ca> on Tuesday March 12, 2013 @06:44PM (#43153979)

    While France has many many funny laws and ideas, many of which I think are bogus. But on this one IMO they are right. If Skype connected directly at the user to a telephone then IMO it would be a different picture. However, SKYPE acts on behalf of the user and hence they are doing the same thing as a telco, albeit not a completely telco.

    • by countach (534280) on Tuesday March 12, 2013 @09:07PM (#43155121)

      Except that Skype facilitates incoming calls only, so they are more like a foreign telco than a local one. And because they don't provide POTS to consumers, it is impossible to fulfill France's telco requirements to be able to identifiy the location of an emergency call. At best, France's laws are out of step with the 21st century. Or else, no Skype is like a foreign telco, routing incoming calls, and not a local telco, which provides outgoing calls.

      • by xQx (5744) on Tuesday March 12, 2013 @09:28PM (#43155285)
        So, we have those regulations in Australia too, and the sky didn't fall.

        IP Telephony providers have had very little problem complying with this archaic regulation.

        The clincher is that it's just as difficult to tell where a call originates when it's on a mobile network. You can, at best, tell what tower it is on. Not much use on a block with a high-rise apartment building.

        With IP, the theory goes:
        1. If the call originates from an IP Address that is fixed (eg. DSL) in location, give that location.
        2. If it's not, but you know the address of the IP, give that location
        3. Otherwise, give the billing address of the customer's service.

        The problem in Australia is that the database isn't at all dynamic. You put the address in and in a few days it's available to emergency services - so, when someone calls from a mobile phone (that's not on the telstra network) or an IP Phone, emergency services get the billing address.

        IMHO - If Skypeout is achieved by making international calls into France, then France can go jump. But if they've got a carrier interface (SS7 gateways and the like) inside the country's borders then they can put up with the same laws that the other Telco's in France (ie. their local competition) do.
        • I'm no expert on the ins and outs of IP assignment, but with dynamic assignment of IPs, it seems to me that even giving a billing address is extremely problematic. In Australia, the IP address could be owned by Telstra, dynamically assigned to your iphone, would could be anywhere in the country. Perhaps days and weeks after the fact you could look at logs and find out some better information, but I would have thought that in real time, IP address tells you precisely zero.

      • by jimicus (737525)

        How is Skype Out not facilitating outgoing calls?

    • I've always seen the legitimizing factor in telecom regulation as being that they consume a finite public resource, either in the form of right-of-ways for wiring or spectrum for wireless operations. In exchange for exclusive access to the resources and, correspondingly, a monopoly (or oligopoly) on the service, limits are placed on rates and otherwise economically inviable services are mandated (such as rural access). In the case of Skype, while they certainly threaten telephone monopolies which rely on

      • by femtobyte (710429)

        I see you didn't bother to read the article summary. When Skype connects users to *actual land-line phones,* they are using the same limited publicly-subsidized infrastructure as every other telco. This is the rationale for regulation, not Skype's internet-only telephony practices.

        • Skype may be connecting to the telephone network, but I don't see anywhere that they're building out infrastructure through right-of-ways. If they are liable for regulation in that way, then Slingbox should be regulated as a cable provider. They do exactly what Skype does, just unidirectionally: make a cable television endpoint, interconnected to a physical network that exists in regulated right-of-ways available via the Internet.

          • by femtobyte (710429)

            If you're using built-out infrastructure (as Skype is), then you should be regulated the same as all other users, whether you originally built it out or not. Otherwise, should every other telco be allowed to create an "independent" shell company to build out the infrastructure, then use it themselves regulation free? Whether/how to regulate other services like Slingbox is a separate issue --- maybe they should be, too (I don't know much about their particular service).

        • by PhilHibbs (4537)

          But another telco is providing that connection to the actual land line phones, so Skype are not occupying a public resource. Is it reasonable for Skype to be required to implement 999 (or whatever it is in France, but that would be like 911 in the US) calls from within Skype on a PC? And, is it reasonable for Skype to be required to provide the location of your PC, or your mobile phone, or your ipad, to the authorities when you make such a call? How is Skype going to know where my PC is? How is Skype going

          • by Compaqt (1758360)

            >How is Skype going to know where my PC is?

            1. License a rootkit from Sony
            2. ??
            3. Don't profit!

      • by AmiMoJo (196126) * <mojoNO@SPAMworld3.net> on Wednesday March 13, 2013 @01:04AM (#43156455) Homepage

        No, the justification is that telephony is a vital service in the modern world. You need it just to live, otherwise basic stuff like getting a job or dealing with your government is near impossible.

        In exchange for being allowed to provide a vital service everyone needs and which is thus a somewhat captive market you have to meet some basic requirements.

    • by TsuruchiBrian (2731979) on Tuesday March 12, 2013 @09:15PM (#43155187)

      Except that they never actually had to install any physical telecommunications equipment. They provide an overlay network. It is a network that uses the existing phone and internet networks to provide functionality. They take advantage of the fact that communication over a phone handset is fundamentally no different than sending bits over the internet. An actual telecom company provides access to some public resource that they were granted stewardship over by a government (e.g. phone lines, fiber cables, wireless spectrum, etc). In some cases they actually own those resources. This just seems like another case of a European government trying to shakedown a rich company for money, (e.g. Microsoft, etc).

      If I was skype I would just turn off access to France and let the people fire their politicians then turn it back on.

      It won't be long before Europe declares wikipedia and youtube public utilities and start trying to extort money from them too

  • I am all for it. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by gagol (583737) on Tuesday March 12, 2013 @06:45PM (#43153999)
    Especially since Skype out is more expensive than my current voip provider, they have the money for it and interoperate with the POTS.
    • Skype out must be the most expensive VoIP provider out there. Plus it is non-standard, proprietary and closed source.

    • Re:I am all for it. (Score:5, Informative)

      by MightyYar (622222) on Tuesday March 12, 2013 @07:07PM (#43154201)

      You are right - I just checked mine (CallCentric), and their rate is 0.0198 USD to France, while Skype is 0.023 USD.

      • by houghi (78078)

        http://progx.ch/home-voip-prixbetamax-3-1-1.html [progx.ch]
        The one I selected I use to call my family living in another country. I just phone a local number and there I form the number. I pay nothing for the local number with my plan and then 2 euro cents per minute.
        This however after a 90 days free calling after a top up. I always just pay 10EUR.
        Some even have a 120 freedays. So each tinme you pay 10EUR you get to call free for 10 days to many countries, including your own (If that is possible)

    • Yup. Even if you made 1 call a month my VoIP provider still beats Skype.

      I had a call yesterday over Skype and I found the quality absolutely awful compared to my VoIP line as well.

  • Correct (Score:5, Insightful)

    by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland&yahoo,com> on Tuesday March 12, 2013 @06:46PM (#43154001) Homepage Journal

    And they are correct. You tie into the Telco, you need to play by the regulations for Telco.

    • by MightyYar (622222)

      But then isn't the answer to simply avoid a physical presence in France? Surely they can still offer competitive rates while hooking into POTS in one of the other EU states? I'm asking this because I'm totally ignorant of European telecom laws.

      • by geekoid (135745)

        As am I; however most telco system have regulatory requirements, so it's reasonable that anyone using the phone system would also need to have the regulations. This is specifically about that features in Skype, not calls that are strictly voip.

        I would suspect any Telco would do the same.

      • by ADRA (37398)

        You give yourself a physical presence in local markets because it IS cheaper than routing over an incumbent toll carrier. Take out your hardware, and the skype out feature would cost substantially more for the feature (which is why they have hardware there to begin with). As long as France's standards apply across all competitors, then I see no problem with this.

        • by MightyYar (622222)

          As long as France's standards apply across all competitors, then I see no problem with this.

          I see no problem with it, so long as the original reason for the regulation still applies. In other words, what would be the consequences if Skype (or other VOIP services) were to NOT follow the regulations?

          • by geekoid (135745)

            I think that overlooks the fact that the telcos would carry the burden for anyone using the services. That said:
            You loose the loss of automated emergency services.

            Remember this isn't about Skype, it's about Skype out.

            • by MightyYar (622222)

              I should add that I don't really care what policies the people of France have - if they want to over-regulate, so be it. I'm in the US, and I'd be pretty sore if they made my cheap-ass computer-based VOIP thingy support 911... who would call 911 on that, anyway? On the other hand, I'm one of those weirdo responsible people who actually springs for the extra $1.50/month on my VOIP service for 911...

              • by neutrino38 (1037806) on Wednesday March 13, 2013 @04:38AM (#43157205) Homepage Journal

                French telecommunication regulator is right to try to impose operator burdends on Skype.

                1/ More and more people are adopting this service a primary phone service because of SkypeIn and SkypeOut feature. This means that there will be more and more case where user will need to make emergency calls. This lack of emergency call support is a shame. So the post above is ... very shortsighted. One day you may need it yourseff.

                2/ VOIP Technology / Skype are more and more displacing regular phones. They play the same role so they need somehow to be regulated in the same manner. There is in France a declarative licence for small telcos, the so called "L33-1". I know a couple of medium sized company operating VoIP service that applied to this without any problem. So it is not like it is unbearable for companies like Microsoft.

                3/ I am so amazed by comment like: Skype should cut skype in/out, or avoid physical presence in France (replace by country xxx if you want) to avoid any form of regulation.

                Damn ! these regulations are non discriminatory and made for the common good. Its like on the road, if you have no rules, you end up with a dysfunctional traffic. I see in all these comment some kind of selfish, short sighted spirit, 'I want the lowest cost regardless the consequences" that is a worrying trend.

                Just because someone sees the work "governement", "regulation" they jump to the roof, say its bad, andy freedom and they try to avoid it without even pondering the consequences or the actual need for regulation. I see this ultimately as some kind of subtul selfishness.

                As much as I agree that freedom and freedom to innovate should be preserved and fostered, it should not be a the cost of forgetting the notion of common good.

                • by MightyYar (622222)

                  As much as I agree that freedom and freedom to innovate should be preserved and fostered, it should not be a the cost of forgetting the notion of common good.

                  As a person paying $1.50/month for 911 service through my VOIP provider, I guess my main hangup is personal responsibility. I think it's great when the government steps in to correct chaos for the common good: regulate telephone poles and utilities, roads, the airwaves and other common property. I'm not as into "do this, it's for your own good". If some jackass wants to save a few pennies by skimping on 911 service, let 'em. The only reason I will acquiesce and admit that it's probably a good idea is that j

      • sure you can do that, and France telecom can then charge you long distance for all the calls made into their country. There are two issues here: you are avoiding the anointed long distance carriers (who pay off/into the government/taxes), and regulating an industry that is essential to life in most of the world (emergency calls).
    • by hawguy (1600213)

      And they are correct. You tie into the Telco, you need to play by the regulations for Telco.

      Why? Skype isn't providing traditional telephones, they are using gateways that interface with the Telco network (thus are ultimately controlled by the Telcos) -- the Telco is providing the physical telephone lines, not Skype.

      If a computer-to-computer call is not regulated, why should the computer end of a computer-to-landline call be regulated? The landline side is already regulated, what makes the computer side different just because it's able to call a landline?

      • Re:Correct (Score:4, Informative)

        by cheater512 (783349) <nick@nickstallman.net> on Tuesday March 12, 2013 @07:21PM (#43154313) Homepage

        Because both ends of the landline call need to be regulated. It has nothing to do with the computer aspect of it.

        • Because both ends of the landline call need to be regulated. It has nothing to do with the computer aspect of it.

          And aren't all you guys cheering on regulation the same people who would cry murder if they were trying to regulate the Internet?

          • Re:Correct (Score:4, Insightful)

            by currently_awake (1248758) on Tuesday March 12, 2013 @08:21PM (#43154747)
            I would very much like to see the internet regulated like the phone system. The rule about no tapping phones without a court order sounds wonderful.
            • by wbean (222522)
              Are you sure? I just switched two POTS lines to V over IP and expect to save $800 a year. That's what a regulated monopoly will do to you.
        • by hawguy (1600213)

          Because both ends of the landline call need to be regulated. It has nothing to do with the computer aspect of it.

          Oh, "Just because". Well that's a great reason for government regulation.

      • Re:Correct (Score:5, Informative)

        by ADRA (37398) on Tuesday March 12, 2013 @07:28PM (#43154363)

        Skype in this case is taking the place of an inter-exchange carrier as described generally in:
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interexchange_carrier [wikipedia.org]

        In the US, these entities are in fact regulated, and I imagine its the same in France. If they're acting in the same fashion (but with slightly different physical characteristics), why wouldn't those same laws apply to them? If you want fully de-regulate the long distance phone providers as being telecommunications entities that's one thing, but applying one set of rules because its half tethered off the internet doesn't change the nature of what these companies do.

        • by hawguy (1600213)

          Skype in this case is taking the place of an inter-exchange carrier as described generally in:
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interexchange_carrier [wikipedia.org]

          In the US, these entities are in fact regulated, and I imagine its the same in France. If they're acting in the same fashion (but with slightly different physical characteristics), why wouldn't those same laws apply to them? If you want fully de-regulate the long distance phone providers as being telecommunications entities that's one thing, but applying one set of rules because its half tethered off the internet doesn't change the nature of what these companies do.

          I don't see it. From the article "An IXC carries traffic, usually voice traffic, between telephone exchanges." Skype isn't carrying traffic between exchanges, instead they are acting as a long wire from the point of entry to the Telco network to the end user's computer. The management of a large building may provide a long wire from the building MPOE to an office on the 55th floor, but that doesn't make them an IXC.

          I think Skype is more like a CLEC (with a very large "local area"), but they aren't that eith

    • So they finally cannot tap into the conversations anymore?

      Wow.

      Now, if only they can force Facebook and Google into becoming official telcos. I mean, what is the difference between sending a text message on a phone to a bunch of friends, and sharing something with a restricted group of friends on Facebook?

      • by geekoid (135745)

        Nothing, but it in no way applies.
        Let me know when text messaging as the regulation for emergency services to know who is calling immediately.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    If Skype has VOIP-to-POTS gateways physically located in France, they need to follow France's legacy telecom rules. If the gateways are located elsewhere (e.g. in another EU country), France shouldn't have any standing to impose their regulations on them.

    • Call Termination (Score:4, Informative)

      by Frankie70 (803801) on Tuesday March 12, 2013 @07:56PM (#43154551)

      France can always prevent call termination on France's POTs numbers.

    • by sjames (1099)

      The two claimed purposes are emergency calls and wire tapping. The first is quite difficult because unlike landlines or cell towers, it's genuinely not possible to know with certainty where the caller is, and so how do you route the emergency call to the 'nearest' location?

      In the U.S. the FCC finally agreed that sending customer provided location info to the call center was adequate but prior to that, the incumbents did become more interested in public safety than they had ever been before or since. I don't

  • Possible response (Score:4, Interesting)

    by c0lo (1497653) on Tuesday March 12, 2013 @07:05PM (#43154179)
    MS not offering anymore "Skype Out" in France... Who's going to lose? Well, it's the worst kind of solution, in which everybody loses something and nobody wins (not even the French VoIP providers: the greatest majority of Skype-out calls happens just because the called is not online and the caller would like her/him to join a Skype-to-Skype session. A SMS - direct or via Twitter - would achieve pretty much the same thing).
  • by Bearhouse (1034238) on Tuesday March 12, 2013 @07:07PM (#43154191)

    OK, they brought us the Minitel. Er, thanks...

    I've been here for more than 20 years, and have really enjoyed being financially fucked in the ass by the France Telecom monopoly, swiftly followed by the FT/SFR duopoly, and then Bouygues came along and, tada!, we had the same old...overpriced, underserviced.

    Fortunately, after years off battling the well-captured 'regulators', Free has finally got things moving somewhat in the right direction.

    My point? Skype buys its out calling service from these fine, regulated companies. It is not a telco in the traditional sense, so leave it alone.

    Btw, not a Skype/MS shill, although I freely admit i have found it incredibly useful over the years, and it has saved me and my family a ton of money. Right now moving to Jitsi...it's getting there. (Waiting for Android and iOs clients, please)

  • The obvious course of action for Skype is, if the French government considers imposing regulations on Skype, to deny service to France. The French government is not powerful enough to put Skype in a disadvantageous position; all Skype has to do is pack up its bags and leave, and then France will be denied the revenue it was after and will also have to deal with a bunch of angry constituents.

  • This is pretty much how it went down all over western Europe (Italy, I'm lookin' at you) when cell phones did an end-run against heavily regulated landlines. Sure, you could wait 6 months for phone service ... or you can have this! Now it's euros, not time, but the song's more-or-less the same.
  • Tax grab, plain and simple.
  • France Register As a Country.

    Seriously, Russian government abandoned a similar idea after this video - "Hitler and Skype" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bxhs8jMnC7w [youtube.com] , which was watched at Youtube millions of times.

    Hitler speaks in Russian, which just made sound as German language. The funny part is that Hitler uses a lot of F-words regarding proposed ban on Skype, but the caption translates it into correct cultured Russian language.

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