Orange to kill Unlimited Internet in France

Oct 15, 2012
Vote on Hacker News

Orange LogoNews began to circulate last Friday that Orange was taking the first steps towards changing it’s household internet pricing from a fixed cost to a ‘pay-as-you-go’ pricing. The news, originally picked up by La Lettre A[FR] & then reported on Rue89[FR], cites Orange as saying it is “actively preparing different offers based on usage.” The same announcement also revealed Orange’s plans to work with Qosmos, a Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) provider, providing them with an uncomfortably large amount of information on customers’ internet usage. More interestingly announced was the fact that the CNIL, the French net neutrality advocacy group, is also overseeing tests, currently being done with Alcatel-Lucent.

Pay-per-bit Internet

Rue89 deduced from the announcement that Orange could be planning to make customers pay to use different internet services – Google & Facebook, YouTube, and Skype being examples of three different tiers of internet consumption. I don’t agree with this vision, especially since I doubt the CNIL would go for that, let alone customers. Additionally, it doesn’t line up with their costs, which is ultimately what they’re trying to work out: everyone’s paying the same price but not everyone is using the same amount of internet. They make a good profit on ‘casual users,’ but bloggers & torrenters are taking them for their money.

I wrote last week about a Internet usage in France, showing, among other things, that there are peak hours & peak days of internet use across the board, much like Electricity & Water. And so, like Electricity & Water, it is not unreasonable to have “peak hours” which cost more (since there is more bandwidth being consumed) than other hours – again, like water & electricity. I think this kind of debiting system would line up with France’s cultural view of Internet/data – that it is a utility which all citizens have the right to have in their house – and would align Telecom Provider’s costs with their customers’ usage.

That being said, I’m totally against the idea. Just like I would be against the idea of electricity being more expensive during the night, if it wasn’t already the case.

Deep Packet Integration: Questionable at Best.

The company Orange will be working with, Qosmos, is a French ‘startup,’ though it’s clients include both Cisco &, allegedly, Syrian president Bachar el-Assad. Their Deep Packet Integration allows Internet providers (or firewall providers) to scan packets of information from the internet going to users, and detect viruses, spam, what web page your on, etc. While the company’s page makes it very clear that they comply with very strict Ethics codes, their recent aforementioned accusation has left others doubting.

FYI: The company announced last September a $19M round of funding.

If Net Neutrality People are on board, how bad can it be?

With CNIL watching over the tests, it narrows down the realm of possibilities of how Orange will change their internet offers. I don’t see page-by-page or media restrictions being build into their plans, but I do see some combination of a Pay-per-bit Internet set up and a “peak hour” pricing coming up in the future – both plans would align Orange’s costs with that of their users.

Nevertheless, French media seems convinced that Orange’s plans will segregate based on media-type… but I’m not convinced. What do you think?