French internet networks increasingly in demand… and monopolized by Gafa

According to Arcep, which published its State of the Internet report today, data traffic grew by 25% in France in 2021. A handful of American companies still occupy a large portion of bandwidth.

35.6 terabits per second… Internet traffic in France grew by another 25.3% last year, while 2020 was already an exceptional year, with a 50% increase in the amount of data. In the face of this explosion of internet usage, operators have fortunately adapted as their transit capacity has increased from 50 Tbit/s to 95 Tbit/s in just two years, almost doubling.

We understand better why the investments of French operators are reaching records: 14.9 billion euros in 2021, an increase of more than 10% over a year, according to Arcep.

Netflix, the biggest consumer

However, what hardly changes is the weight of the digital giants in the French networks. Netflix, Google, Meta and Amazon monopolize more than 40% of bandwidth in France. Netflix is ​​still the biggest consumer, with almost 20% of the bandwidth alone.

Figures that will undoubtedly fuel once again the (old) debate about the contribution of digital groups to the financing of networks. The European Commission has made it a new hobby for several months.

“Just a handful of players occupy more than 50% of the world’s bandwidth. It is time to reorganize the fair remuneration of networks. This is now one of the key projects in our digital space” declared last May Thierry Breton, Commissioner for the domestic market.

guest of Good morning Business, the president of ARCEP (Regulatory Authority for Electronic Communications, Posts and Press Distribution), Laure de la Raudière, mentioned this possible reorganization of costs. Regulation of two prerequisites in particular.

All costs are borne by the access providers, it is legitimate to have a debate. But this must be done within the framework of the open Internet: we must not compromise the neutrality of the web, which is a factor of innovation and freedom of expression and communication. […] A preliminary impact study should also be carried out, in case of a change in cost allocation, on the consequences of such a change.

Towards an annual “contribution” from Gafa?

Brussels would like to move forward on this topic quickly, even if the issue is still divided among Member States. The operators themselves take the opportunity to push their hostages. According to a study by the European telecom lobby, the traffic generated by the American giants costs them between 15 and 28 billion euros every year. So they evoke an annual “contribution” from Gafa of 20 billion euros to rebalance things. Operators hope that a law will force platforms to negotiate this financial counterpart.

But digital companies also have arguments to make. They regularly emphasize that it is their content that attracts consumers and therefore adds value to operator subscriptions. Finally, it should not be forgotten that these companies already participate, indirectly, in the financing of networks, through the installation of servers (internal CDN) made available to operators. They now account for 17% of Internet traffic in France, according to Arcep.

Netflix, for example, has dedicated $1 billion to its Open Connect program, which allows its videos to be stored as close to users as possible to prevent files from traveling from the other side of the world and clogging up networks. According to the platform, 40 of these servers are now installed in France.

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