French ISP suspends Google ad block

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French ISP suspends Google ad block
Fleur Pellerin.

Mediation underway.

The second largest Internet provider in France, Free, has temporarily lifted a block on ads served by Google after government intervention, the latest in a month-long dispute over traffic charges between the two companies.

A meeting between France's Minister for innovation and the digital economy, Fleur Pellerin, the ISP and web publishers led to the ad blocking being suspended, BFM Business reports.

After seeking and failing to be paid by Google for traffic it sent to Free's customers, the ISP issued a firmware update for its DSL routers that blocked ads on sites universally, a move that caused consternation and anger among French web publishers who said the unilateral move threatened the survival of their businesses.

The ad blocking is thought to be the first of its kind by an ISP, and in mediating between the provider, site publishers and Google, Pellerin is seeking to have it optional and disabled by default, the minister said via Twitter.

All ads served via Google's network were blocked and removed from searches, Gmail and YouTube, BFM Business says. Free also mistakenly blocked Google Analytics, but access to this service was restored quickly.

Google has indicated that it may compensate Free for traffic, especially from YouTube, after it struck a similar deal with France Telecom's ISP arm Orange.

Should Free restore the ad block, it may cost Google up to half a billion euros in revenues. According to BFM Business, Google's turnover in France is an estimated 1.6 billion euros (A$2 billion).

Earlier this year, the association of European telcos, ETNO, put forward a proposal ahead of the Word Conference on International Telecommunications that called for mandatory commercial negotiations between content and network providers.

ETNO stated that over-the-top providers such as Netflix generated over 70 percent of incoming traffic but did not contribute to infrastructure funding to cater for it.

ETNO argued for an end to free peering or traffic exchanging between providers and the introduction of the Sending Party Network Pays or SPNP principle of charging.

The proposal by ETNO was shot down (pdf) by the Internet Society which said it was risking "the diversity and competition of the communications services marketplace that gave rise to the commercial Internet in the first place." 

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