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French regulator looks at Skype as a telecoms operator

Could entail minimum service obligations
Wed Mar 13 2013, 17:32

FRENCH TELECOMS REGULATOR ARCEP is investigating Skype to decide whether it is a telecoms operator.

Microsoft's Skype is a voice over IP (VoIP) internet telephony service that allows users to dial ordinary phone numbers, however the firm clearly says that the service cannot be used for emergency calls.

Now the French regulator ARCEP is investigating whether Skype is a telecoms operator, which would mean that Skype will have to provide minimum service levels such as the ability to dial emergency services.

According to ARCEP, a company that is acting as a telecoms operator would not only have to provide access to emergency services but also allow law enforcement authorities to wiretap lines after obtaining the appropriate legal authority. The regulator said Skype had on several occasions "declare[d] itself an electronic communications operator," but not acted as one.

Microsoft said it is working with the French authorities and claimed Skype is not a telecoms operator. It said, "Skype is not a provider of electronic communications services under French law".

ARCEP spokesman Jean-François Hernandez told the New York Times that the organisation had initially delivered its demands to Skype in April 2012 but the firm did not cooperate.

Services such as Skype are not considered telecoms operators in the European Union, a fact that Microsoft is using to defend Skype. If Skype is declared as a telecoms operator, Microsoft will have to spend a lot of money to build up the reliability of its VoIP overlay to ensure that it will meet minimum service level requirements. µ


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