The French Telecommunications and Posts Regulator, ARCEP, has referred Skype to the Paris public prosecutor, asking it to investigate whether Skype has failed to comply with an obligation to register as a telecommunications operator. Registered operators must provide emergency calling services and allow for lawful interception of communications.
Skype's PC-to-PC voice and video calls over the Internet aren't at issue here, but the French regulator is taking a keen interest in the Skype Out service, which allows users in France (and elsewhere) to use their PC or smartphone to call numbers on the public-switched telephone network in France and other countries. In the regulator's view, that service would appear to be an electronic communications service in the eyes of the law, it said Tuesday.
Providers of such services do not require a license in France, but they must declare themselves to the authorities or risk criminal prosecution, the regulator said. Once registered, operators have other obligations,"which include the routing of emergency calls and implementing the means required to perform legally ordered interceptions," the regulator said.
ARCEP has written to Skype several times asking it to declare itself as an electronic communications operator, starting with a letter on April 17, 2012, the regulator's communications manager Jean-François Hernandez said via email.
However, Skype refused to register as operator of the Skype Out service, said Hernandez. The company does not figure on the regulator's list of declared operators dated Feb. 1, 2013.
Skype's reluctance to register as an operator in France may be linked with difficulties in meeting the obligation to provide French emergency services with the location of those making emergency calls. The company's warning "Skype is not a replacement for your telephone and can't be used for emergency calling" appears on many pages on its website. While Skype will be able to determine the IP address from which a call is made, it may not always be able to turn that into a precise indication of the caller's location.
The company did not respond to a request for comment on the regulator's requests or on the technical feasibility of providing emergency calling service.
Faced with Skype's refusal to register, the regulator quizzed Skype and registered French telecommunications operators about the contracts between them allowing the routing of telephone traffic and the provision of the Skype Out service to French residents in order to compile its dossier for the prosecutor, Hernandez said.
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