Year 2017 was marked by the end of the neutrality of the net in the United States (la fin de la neutralité du net aux États-Unis). This principle guarantees the equal treatment of all the data flows on the network without discrimination.
The neutrality of Net protected by the law
In Europe, it was sanctuarized by a regulation on November 25th, 2015 which protects the access right of the citizens of the continent in an open Internet. This one "became an open platform of easily accessible innovation for the end users, providers of contents, applications and services and the Internet access service providers.
This law concerns the flows which enter the network of which people go out. According to the European regulation, "no matter what is the place where we find the end user or the supplier, no matter what is the place, the origin or the destination of the information, the contents, the application or the service", this freedom implies "to reach the information and the contents" and " to use  applications and services".
In France, the law for a digital Republic of 2016 registered the principle of neutrality in the legal framework. For the Constitutional Council, the freedom of the Internet access is a part of the constitutional law to express and communicate freely. "Being promoted" of this principle is not probably finished because the President of the National Assembly, François de Rugy, would like to have registered in the Constitution.
In spite of this normative arsenal, the open Internet access suffers from a negligence, noticed Arcep in an entitled report "terminals, weak links of the Internet opening" (Les terminaux, maillons faibles de l’ouverture d’internet ). If the principle applies to networks, it does not apply to terminals. Yet, the authority notices that the latter are the tendency vectors of an access to a more limited and less open Internet.
The Internet browsing on computer to the smartphones applications
What are we talking concretely about? Traditionally, we surf the Web on the computer via an Internet connection. Web, network site social, forums, blogs, … Yet, this configuration is upset since a moment by a new terminal: the smartphone. According to Barometer of the Digital technology 2017 of CREDOC for the Agency of the Digital technology, Arcep and the General Council of the economy, smartphone is simply the first access tool to the Internet (48%) on the computer (43 %) in France. 73% of French people possess a smartphone vs 17% in 2011. It is mainly used to surf on Web (64 % of French people). For other countries as China, the Internet access was initially created on mobile. Therefore, there are 724 million mobile Internet users on 750 million fixed and mobile subscriptions!
But the problem is, the smartphone brings with the new uses and, in particular, a new way of arresting the Internet. The good old browser gives a way for the applications. In the world, people have installed on average 80 applications on their smartphone. It uses 40 per month, on an average of three hours a day. The practice, application allows to use directly a service. But the Internet access is then "more restrictive than [that] via a browser, because it is very specialized". It is translated for the user by" a lesser control of the information which it can reach and a lesser control of the criteria according to which this information is put forward ".
An access to more closed Internet
The limits of the editorial policy of operating systems (OS) are added and especially the sector is dominated by Apple/Google duopoly. Certainly, limitations are sometimes imperative because of technical constraints; they can even benefit to the user in particular in the field of the safety. Nevertheless, they are also a way for the manufacturers of terminals or the OS publishers "to develop loyalty" of the customer by preventing the access to rival services in the most extreme cases (as the retreat of YouTube by Google of the TV terminals Amazon Fire Stick and Amazon Echo Show following the decision of Amazon to remove Chromecast of its online shop) or by advancing its own products by a referencing policy.
Arcep also implicates the preinstallation of applications which is a way to impose them to the customer. If this policy can justify itself by its pragmatism, "masks fall" when we realize that these pre-installed applications cannot be eliminated. For example, Lenovo/Motorola prevents the deinstallation and the modification of the Google Search bar on the home screen. On the side of Apple, we cannot change the search engine used by Spotlight on iOS.
"Balkanization" of the Internet access and controlled browsing
Besides, the evolutions to come are potentially prejudicial to the open Internet access. The development of the vocal assistance to the proliferation of the connected objects, including the virtual reality, the increased reality and the growing appeal to the cloud, is outlined the advent of an access split up and specialized in the Internet. The report evokes, among others, the phenomenon of the "kindle-isation" according to which the terminal is associated with a platform. The term refers to Kindle, this dust cover was connected with the platform Amazon. The tendency is general. Tomorrow, the enclosure connected HomePod will be reserved for the services Apple Music and Itunes and inaccessible for competitors. The day after tomorrow, we can imagine the GPS of a connected car susceptible to select routes favoring the signs attendance having made the agreements with the manufacturer.
Besides this "balkanization" of the Internet access modelled according to the services and the objects, it is a good search on Web which is questioned with the democratization of the vocal assistance and the connector enclosure. This one constitutes a "structural limitation in the Internet opening" because, in the plurality of the answers of a result page, substitutes a supposed unique answer to be the most relevant. Having finished the pleasures of the serendipity, the consumer has to follow blindly his assistant. Yet, the proposed results are still far from being reliable. If the difficulties can be imputed to an even failing artificial intelligence, it is good that the manufacturer choosing beforehand information sources are questioned by the assistant. We even have the impression as the limitations call the limitations: absence of configuration of the assistant or the search service, closure to the application makers …
In the end, Arcep releases a number of recommendations to guarantee the access to an open Internet.
First of all, the principle has to apply to the networks at terminals.
Second, it passes by a constant work of the day before and the information about the current practices. Arcep offers in particular the implementation of an expert regulator to inquire all the market players. Also, it would be sensible to collect the description of the end users on the model of what makes the authority with the mail operators and the telecoms (ce que fait l’autorité avec les opérateurs postaux et télécoms.)
Third,it recommends the ad hoc establishment of devices to fluidify markets and develop the competition. The latter must be envisaged not as an end in itself but "as a lever (...) to stimulate the virtuous behavior and guarantee the conditions of the Internet opening". It should also be easier to change terminal by encouraging the portability of the data.
Finally, Arcep envisages a whole drum kit of direct actions with key players to protect the profusion offered by Internet: allow the users to eliminate the applications pre-installed (as it is the case in South Korea), rank differently the contents and available on-line services in the stores of applications, set up a follow-up of the exclusive offers, accompany SME and start-ups in an unfavorable position because of their lack of means by creating, for example, a legal remedy in case of dispute on the conditions of the access at terminals.
Article written by Thierry Randretsa