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France demands Skype register as telco

Emergency calls, interception and tax

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The French telecommunications regulator ARCEP has turned a critical eye on Microsoft's Skype and decided – more than a decade after the service was created – that it should register as a communications operator.

ARCEP believes the service is eluding “the duties and obligations” of a telecommunications operator, and according to Atlantico, (Google translation here), has flicked the issue to the Public Prosecutor in Paris, explaining that under Article L. 36-10 of the Post and Electronic Communications law, refusal to register is likely to be a criminal offence.

In particular, ARCEP wants to require Skype to route emergency calls and implement lawful interception of calls.

According to the New York Times, it's not the first time the regulator has been asking Skype to declare itself a communications operator since April 2012, but the company has not acted. The NYT says Microsoft has responded to French authorities that it is “not a provider of electronic communication services under French law”.

Such a declaration would make Skype's French earnings subject to tax, but ARCEP denies that this is a factor in its demand.

It's not the first time the question has arisen. Early in the life of Skype, South Africa declared it an illegal “network bypass” without much effect. A similar controversy arose in Ethiopia in 2012.

India is also looking at bringing Skype under its telecommunications regulatory regime. That country's Communications and IT minister Killi Kruparani, speaking at an event launching carrier BSNL's video calling services, said Skype and Google will be “looked at” after the government decided to bring IP telephony under the remit of a new unified licensing regime.

While France's motivation is intercept – with a side order of emergency service connection – India is also interested in money, since its local carriers and ISPs pay license fees to the government while Skype does not. ®

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