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France Considers Charging Google for Network Capacity

The French government will look into making Internet companies including Google Inc. pay for the burden they place on telecommunications networks, Technology Minister Fleur Pellerin said.

Web companies generate traffic without having to invest in the infrastructure that carries it, Pellerin said today after asking local Internet provider Iliad SA to stop blocking online advertisements from companies such as Google. Iliad has agreed to stop blocking online ads for its users, Pellerin said. The company, founded by French businessman Xavier Niel, had more than 5.2 million broadband subscribers at the end of September.

“What solutions do Internet providers have when faced with content providers who use their networks but don’t invest in them?” Pellerin said during a press conference in Paris. “We need to ask serious questions about how Web companies can put some money into networks.”

Industry Minister Arnaud Montebourg and Pellerin will host a debate on Jan. 15 about these questions, said Pellerin, who will talk to Google’s executives in France before then. Phone companies are experimenting with business models to generate more revenue from traffic growth that is putting pressure on networks. Businesses such as France Telecom SA and BT Group Plc are charging some content companies extra for a fast lane on the Internet.

Isabelle Audap, an Iliad spokeswoman, declined to say why the company’s Free service had blocked ads or whether the move was part of the broader debate on making Web companies pay more for network traffic.

“We have noticed the measures taken by Free and are currently analyzing the situation,” Anne-Gabrielle Dauba-Pantanacce, a representative for Google in Paris, said in an e-mailed statement.

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