FT wages war over Paris’ free Wi-Fi networks

12 Jul 2007

France Télécom (FT) is taking Paris city hall to court over plans for what it calls an ‘unfair’ free Wi-Fi service in the city, writes AFX News. The Paris authorities are looking to provide free Wi-Fi access in libraries, parks and museums in the capital from mid-July, but FT argues the plans violate rules barring local authorities from providing ‘unfair’ competition to private companies. The telco told Agence France-Presse it filed its complaint about the service on 28 March this year, basing its argument on a clause in the code governing regional authorities, which is aimed at preventing ‘unfair competition between (service) operators and local authorities.’ The incumbent claims city hall is forbidden from operating its own public telecoms network unless (a) it agrees to provide access for all operators to use the system or (b) if the actual tender for the provision of the service attracted no bids in the first place. However, in February 2007 French mobile operator SFR was awarded the contract to run the 400 hotspots being deployed, while Alcatel-Lucent won the equipment supply contract. FT, which has its own network of 2,250 commercial hotspots in Paris, now argues that the European Commission set a precedent when it prevented the Czech capital Prague from setting up a free Wi-Fi network in 2005 on competition grounds.

France, Orange Group