According to reports, the European Commission has launched a series of ‘unannounced inspections’ on some of the continent’s largest providers. Orange, Deutsche Telekom, and Telefonica have had regulators show up to comb through their offices, while BT and KPN have apparently not – yet at least.
Apparently, the EC’s antitrust investigators are looking into the way the incumbent providers works with content providers, but details of just what they’re looking for are sketchy at best. But over the past year, the relationship between last mile providers and content delivery has become strained, and not so long ago Google and Orange (then France Telecom) were publicly at odds with Cogent in the middle.
Many last mile providers have been looking for ways to tap into the revenues that content providers derive from the data sent over their networks. In the US it has taken the form of interconnection disputes like that of Level 3 and Comcast a few years ago and the recently simmering Cogent/Verizon peering issues, but with regulators trying not to get involved thus far.
The EC investigation seems to be another manifestation of this phenomenon, but for now it’s probably more of a fishing expedition looking for evidence of actual coordination of pressure on content providers. Of course nobody’s talking just yet, and in the murky world of peering and transit it’s going to take time to make sense of things. And from what I’ve seen, the EC and national regulators may be on different sides of the fence here
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