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January 10, 2013

Google Could Be Tapped to Deliver Ads in France

The French government is putting the pressure on Google to open its wallet to help with the cost of running and improving telecoms networks.

French technology minister Fleur Pellerin told The Telegraph there is a “need to ask serious questions about how web companies can put some money into networks.”

Her comments followed the blocking of Google advertisements by French Internet provider Free, which has about 5.2 million users.

She said while she has asked Free’s Xavier Niel to revoke the ban on Google advertising, she can sympathize with his complaints that the technology giant does not compensate him for the volume YouTube and other such services eat up.

“What solutions do Internet providers have when faced with content providers who use their networks but don’t invest in them?” she said at a Paris press conference earlier this week.

Although Google has declined requests for comment on the issue, it is thought the technology titan will oppose efforts to wring money from its coffers to cover costs of networks carrying its traffic to their subscribers. Such a move would likely result in inflated costs to deliver its own services.

“The firm’s massive profitability is based in part on the fact that once it has built web products, the cost of serving them to growing numbers of people remains relatively stable,” The Telegraph wrote.

Google opposed similar suggestions made during the World Conference on International Telecommunications (Wcit) hosted by the ITU, a United Nations organization that oversees international communication policy last month.

One item on the agenda was the review of proposals to restore the International Telecommunications Regulations treaty, which hasn’t been updated since 1988. Some of the proposed modifications would have handed the ITU the muscle to control the flow of information, which would then give the organization the power to censor speech or obstruct the release of public information. It would also have forced Internet and service providers to pay to have traffic and content delivered abroad.

Google said the proposed changes to the treaty threatened freedom of speech. The search engine at the time launched a campaign imploring its users to “support a free and open Internet.”

Google, after settling with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Jan. 3, is also attempting to settle an anti-trust investigation in Europe. A resolution to that case is expected this month.

“Since our preliminary talks with Google started in July, we have substantially reduced our differences regarding possible ways to address each of the four competition concerns expressed by the Commission” competition policy, VP Joaquín Almunia said in a statement last month. “After meeting Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google, today in Brussels, I have decided to continue with the process toward reaching an agreement based on Article 9 of the EU Antitrust regulation. On the basis of the progress made, I now expect Google to come forward with a detailed commitment text in January 2013.”