For France, its businesses and citizens, digital technology offers new possibilities for development, growth and sharing. It is also a powerful means of cementing the basic values of the French Republic and State.

With this in mind, the government has already factored in these new possibilities for the digital transformation of the State and in its economic policy. Maintaining this approach is vital to keep digital deployment at its current sustained pace. The government has two goals:

  • on one hand, to give France the lead in digital technology as regards infrastructure, data with businesses and government departments introducing concrete strategies, and the digital transformation of the economy
  • on the other, to forge a resolutely contemporary digital policy underpinned by citizens, users, entrepreneurs, civil servants, consumers, “makers” and by a whole host of these people to empower them and bolster their rights in the digital universe

The government is looking to table a new framework incorporating support for innovation and new business models, more open data, better personal protection, heightened platform fairness and the extended rollout of digital access.

This framework was set out in the government’s digital strategy and this Digital Republic bill is its legislative arm. The bill’s text was drafted following a ground-breaking co-construction process in the form of a massive nationwide consultation initiated by the Prime Minister in October 2014. In all, there were more than 4,000 contributions from businesses, government departments and individuals which were received, summarised and examined by the Conseil national du numérique (French Digital Council) which presented its findings and proposals to the government on 18 June 2015.

This bill contains several provisions to help achieve the two above-mentioned goals. There are three main strands:

  • champion data and knowledge dissemination by:
    • bolstering and broadening the open data policy
    • building a data-oriented public service
    • advancing the concept of data of general interest, to make the best possible use of data in the public interest
    • promoting the knowledge-based economy
  • help protect individuals in the digital society by:
    • fostering an open environment to uphold the principles of network neutrality and transferability of data
    • introducing the idea of digital service platform fairness
    • establishing new digital rights for individuals concerning their personal data and access to digital services
  • provide universal access to digital technology by:
    • fostering access to the government’s digital services
    • simplifying access to digital technology for the disabled
    • ensuring that Internet connections are maintained for the most disadvantaged members of society

Description of articles

Title 1 contains the bill’s provisions for championing data and knowledge dissemination.

The purpose of Chapter 1 is to capitalise on the data-driven economy.

Section 1 covers open government data.

In France, there have been two milestones for access to government data.

On one hand, Act no. 78-753 of 17 July 1978 consecrated the entitlement to access administrative documents grounded in a right to information for citizens with oversight by a specific body, the Committee for Access to Administrative Documents (CADA). Subsequent amendments to the Act have extended the scope of this right.

On the other, Order no. 2005-650 of 6 June 2005 on open access to administrative documents and the re-use of public sector information, enacting Directive 2003/98/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 November 2003 on the re-use of public sector information (PSI Directive) in French law, established a right to re-use such information.

This bill heralds a further major advance for open government data in France. It contains three different types of provisions.

First, the bill aims to extend the scope of the administrative documents that may already be made available, and which central and local government, and public and private legal entities having a public service mandate, must voluntarily disseminate. This will cut down on the number of documents provided upon request as they will be freely available on the Internet.

Second, the bill sets out the notion that public sector information provided or disseminated may be freely re-used for purposes other than that of the public service mandate for which it was presented or received.

Third, the bill introduces the new concept of data of general interest by expanding the open data policy to include public and private entities, public service concession holders or entities whose activities are subsidised by the public authorities, and by providing streamlined access for Insee (National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies) to some private databases for the purposes of mandatory statistical surveys.

The bill supplements the bill on the conditions for the re-use of public sector information free-of- charge, which makes French law compliant with Directive 2013/37/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 June 2013 amending the 2003 PSI Directive. This enactment into domestic law actually requires very few legislative measures as French legislation is already mostly aligned with the targets that the Directive sets for the Member States.

Article 1 broadens the scope of automatic dissemination of administrative documents by central and local government, and public and private legal entities having a public service mandate, in line with the stipulations of Article 6 of the Act of 17 July 1978. The Article does not amend the exceptions to the right to communication set forth in Articles 2, 6 and 9 of the Act. It does not increase the number of documents that may be communicated but alters the way in which they are made available. Public archives represent the one exception to this dissemination.

Article 1(I) amends Article 7 of the Act of 17 July 1978 to make it mandatory to automatically publish three categories of administrative document that may already be freely communicated on request, online:

  • 1° those already communicated pursuant to Chapter 1 of the Act of 17 July 1978
  • 2° those set out in the list provided for in Article 17 of said Act
  • 3° databases and data whose publication has economic, social or environmental interest

This Article does not alter the arrangements that already apply to local authorities and to government-funded intercommunal co-operation institutions with separate tax status which were established by the provisions of Article 106(I) and (II) of the Act of 7 August 2015 redrawing France’s regional boundaries, and which enshrine the principle of automatic online publication for municipalities with more than 3,500 inhabitants and their intermunicipal structures.

Article 1(II) amends Article 9 of the Act of 17 July 1978 to extend the obligation to respect literary and artistic property rights to documents disseminated online.

Article 1(III) sets out transitory measures for the application of Article 1(I). Timeframes of between six months and two years are provided for to allow government departments to make arrangements for the new publication obligations.

Article 2 sets out the principle that the re-use of public sector information is free and covers all the information in documents that have been communicated or disseminated. It amends Article 10 of the Act of 17 July 1978 by removing the exception for industrial and commercial public services (SPIC).

Article 3 of the bill comprises a number of provisions that amend the Act of 17 July 1978.

Article 3(I) replaces Article 11 of the Act with an article that obliges central and local government, and public and private legal entities having a public service mandate, to exchange the public information which they produce or receive, in compliance with the stipulations of Article 6 of said Act. It reiterates the provision currently set forth in Article 10 which specifies that this exchange of information does not represent re-use within the meaning of the Act.

Article 3(II) amends Article 13 of the Act of 17 July 1978 to streamline conditions for re-using public sector information containing personal data. It revokes the special and highly restrictive arrangements that currently apply to make way for the ordinary law provisions of the French Data Protection Act of 6 January 1978.

Article 3(III) enshrines the obligation for an annual update of the list of the main administrative documents that each government department has to publish under Article 17 of the Act of 17 July 1978.

Article 3(IV) establishes entitlement to refer cases for the opinion of CADA in the event of refusal to publish an administrative document.

Article 3(V) introduces the option for CADA to set up a streamlined process for replying to applications for opinions submitted to it.

Section 2 addresses the data-oriented public service.

Article 4 sets up a new public service mandate under which the government is tasked with making available and disseminating benchmark data to foster its re-use. Benchmark data is a new class of public sector information which is now produced by public authorities for specific purposes such as tax collection or public statistics. As it has a multitude of uses, this information is vitally important for the economy and society.

The Article sets out the criteria common to all the benchmark data and stipulates that the specific list of this data, the appointment of the government departments tasked with its production and dissemination, and the minimum quality standards to be complied with for its dissemination, will be set by regulatory implementing measures. The data-oriented public service must therefore ensure adequate quality levels for disseminating this data with the assistance of the public authorities already involved in its production.

Section 3 deals with data of general interest.

Article 5 amends Act no. 93-122 of 29 January 1993 to introduce an obligation for public service concession holders to allow the concession-granting authority to publish, as open data, the main data concerning the activity covered by the public service concession. The obligation shall be binding unless provisions to the contrary provide for it to be departed from. It does not apply to ongoing contracts.

Article 6 amends Article 10 of Act no. 2000-321 of 12 April 2000 to provide for an open data publication obligation for the material data of subsidy agreements when their value exceeds the threshold set under regulations (currently €23,000). An open data clause on the data originating from the subsidised activity may also be inserted into the agreements.

Article 7 amends Act no. 51-711 of 7 June 1951 to allow Insee access to the databases of individuals who have been surveyed. This right is for the sole purpose of conducting mandatory statistical surveys with the aim being to streamline the current manual procedures which are time-consuming and cost-intensive. The Article stipulates the guarantees required to protect the private data collected by Insee. Also under the Article, the Minister for the Economy is entitled to hand down a special administrative fine in the event that access to the relevant databases is refused.

The purpose of Chapter II is to expand the knowledge-based economy thanks to initiatives concerning digital common assets, intellectual property and research and statistical work.

Section 1 covers common assets.

Article 8 provides a response to the growth of the information-based economy. Internet promises unprecedented dissemination of information, culture and knowledge, and it is a vehicle for innovation, creation and wealth generation. Simultaneously, in new business models, data, information and knowledge are becoming the main sources of value.

There is therefore the risk that the appropriation of common assets will make access to these assets more complex, or even block this access.

Following on from recommendations in recent reports (in particular, the Lescure report), Article 8 suggests setting up a common information domain extending to the intellectual public domain, which has not yet been clearly defined, and which is not restricted to intellectual property as it includes elements such as information and ideas that are not protected by intellectual property rights, but still require protection against other exclusive rights.

There are three reasons for placing the common information domain under the scope of Article 714 of the Civil Code: first to broaden protection, next to make common assets central to the new issues being raised by the information society, and lastly to introduce special civil proceedings for consumer protection associations.

The incorporation of the common information domain into law is to protect a common asset which now plays a leading role in creation and innovation. This is now required to recognise that both common and private assets should be able to be protected. This recommendation was first made by Unesco in 2003 and it has been reiterated on many occasions, particularly in the Lescure report and in the report from the French Digital Council (CNNum) following the nationwide digital consultation during which broader protection of common digital assets was widely called for.

Section 2 focuses on research and statistical work.

Article 9 deals with access to public research work. Academia has a significant body of scientific information. Access to this information is more difficult than one would wish in spite of the promise of digital technology and the fact that most of the information originates from researchers themselves.

Open access to research results would cut the cost of digital journals for establishments. It would also speed up innovation, foster collaboration, improve the standard of publications, avoid duplicate work, enable the results of past research to be used and promote the involvement of citizens and the civil society.

Through free and open access to knowledge, society’s stakeholders are provided with the capacity to interact with the research world, to have their expectations, requirements and values factored in, and thereby encourage responsible research and innovation.

Open science will also help businesses looking to innovate, particularly SMEs which do not have the resources to invest in R&D.

The draft Article draws on the Commission Recommendation of 17 July 2012 on access to and preservation of scientific information. France favours the balanced strategy of Germany where, since 1 January 2014, authors have a “secondary publication right” (Zweitverwertungsrecht). They can make their contribution in the accepted manuscript publicly available after an embargo period of 12 months from the date of first publication, as long as this is not for commercial purposes.

In line with the Commission’s recommendations, it is suggested that a “secondary exploitation right” for authors as regards scientific research and communication be written into law, without undermining copyright.
Article 9 stipulates that the author may make his/her creation publicly available after an embargo period of 12 months from the first publication of scientific works, as long as this is not for commercial purposes. The timeframe will be 24 months for human and social science works as publishers in this sector do not have such a comfortable financial situation.

Article 10 also aims to bolster the open data policy in the wake of the provisions of the Healthcare System Modernisation bill which provide for removal of the burdensome obligation for researchers to rely on a decree adopted after consultation with the Conseil d’État to have access to health data. In practice, this makes any research in this area very difficult with researchers simply using datasets from other countries. The aim of the Article is to consolidate the open data policy underway by streamlining procedures for accessing public databases including the social security number for public statistics or research purposes. In the same way as the proposals for access to health data, it provides for removing the obligation to rely on a decree adopted after consultation with the Conseil d’État for applications for access to data including this number in favour of authorisation by the French Data Protection Authority (CNIL) or a declaration to this body. This provision would make it easier for government researchers and Insee staff to use this data for their study or assessment work. It is planned that a decree adopted after consultation with the Conseil d’État will set out requirements in terms of the encryption and pairing of the relevant databases.

Title II of the bill focuses on heightening protection in the digital society. Through a series of measures for both citizens and businesses, the aim is to provide new confidence-building instruments to encourage discussions and growth.

Chapter I establishes provisions for an open environment.

Section 1 deals with net neutrality.

During the 2009 review of the EU’s regulatory framework for electronic communications (“Telecoms Package”), the first initiatives were adopted for net neutrality. These initiatives were enacted in French law in the Post and Electronic Communications Code and in the Consumer Code by Order no. 2011-1012 of 24 August 2011 on electronic communications, and have three strands:

  • bolstering transparency and information to consumers on the traffic management practices of electronic communications operators (Art. L. 121-83 and L. 121-83-1 of the Consumer Code)
  • entitlement for the public authorities to intervene in relations between electronic communications operators and providers of electronic communication services to the general public as regards traffic routing conditions (Art. L. 32-4 and L. 36-8 of the Post and Electronic Communications Code)
  • ensuring best-effort Internet service (Art. L. 32-1 and L. 36-6 of said Code)

Although it has not had applications for dispute resolution referred to it, the Electronic Communications and Postal Regulatory Authority (ARCEP) has widely rolled out its investigative powers. Compiling a list of traffic management practices has had such a dissuasive effect on improper behaviour, with the result that the previously widespread practice of blocking applications (e.g.: blocking VoIP and P2P services on mobile devices) has been fully eradicated. Up to the present, ARCEP has not had to impose minimum service standards on operators but it reserves the right to do so should quality fall. To this end, it has introduced a measurement system which now needs to be tested.

To cement the EU’s harmonised approach to net neutrality set out in the Proposal for a Regulation laying down measures concerning the European single market for electronic communications and to achieve a Connected Continent (“Telecoms Single Market Regulation”), Article 11 stipulates compliance with net neutrality rules as being one of the obligations for operators of networks open to the general public and for providers of electronic communication services. The task of ensuring equal and non-discriminatory treatment of traffic by operators on the basis of Articles 3 and 4 of the Telecoms Single Market Regulation which is slated to be adopted in full by the end of 2015 is entrusted to ARCEP. Operators’ implementation of the traffic management rules set out in the Regulation will allow for a free and open Internet without hampering the ability of all digital stakeholders, including operators, to innovate.

Furthermore, Article 11 supplements ARCEP’s administrative investigation prerogatives to enable it to monitor compliance with these rules. Pursuant to this article in its current wording, ARCEP’s requests for information could concern not only traffic routing but also management. Increasing ARCEP’s powers is also part of the proposals laid down in the report from the General Council for the Economy (CGE) and the Inspectorate General of Finance (IGF) on the government’s economic duties.

Section 2 introduces a right to the transferability of data.

The main purpose of Article 12 is to increase the fluidity of the market by obliging providers of the principal digital services such as email and cloud computing to allow their customers to easily retrieve and transfer their data.
Even if consumers are no longer satisfied with the services provided by an operator, they may remain with it due to concerns about losing their data or having to retrieve it through a long and drawn out process. Article 12 will remove these stumbling blocks and will improve the workings of the market whilst offering consumers greater digital mobility. This Article should be coordinated with the Proposal for a Regulation on personal data which is currently under discussion at EU level.

The aim of the new Article L.121-120 of the Consumer Code, instituted by Article 12, is to foster the transferability of email services. Email service providers will have to give consumers the option of transferring their emails and contact lists to another service. In addition, the final paragraph extends the obligation to provide free access to emails received at the address allocated under their domain names to all email service providers for six months following the transfer, whereas previously only ISPs were concerned.

The new Article L.121-121 of the Consumer Code, also instituted by Article 12, is intended to promote the transferability of data stored online by introducing an obligation for all providers of electronic communication services to the general public to offer consumers a functionality for retrieving the files they put online as well as the data associated with their accounts.

The purpose of sub-section 3 is to apply all the above-mentioned provisions to professionals and to introduce penalties to ensure that the system is effective.

Section 3 addresses platform fairness.

Article 13: The Conseil d’Etat’s 2014 annual survey on digital technology and fundamental rights (“Numérique et droits fondamentaux”) broadly defines platforms as content listing and ranking services provided by third parties (e.g.: search engines, social networks, marketplaces, etc.). Platforms are, however, active intermediaries and their role is far from neutral. As some of these platforms have become extremely influential, there may well be violations of existing legislation, in particular as regards fairness vis-à-vis consumers.

Article 13 provides for the inclusion in Article L.111-5-1 of the Consumer Code of a definition of online platforms and places an obligation of fairness towards consumers on these newly defined stakeholders. The obligation covers their general terms of use and the methods of listing, ranking and delisting online offerings.

Article 13 also stipulates that the platforms should clearly mention any contractual relationships or ownership links with the listed persons, whether these persons receive compensation and, where applicable, the effect of this on the ranking of content and services.

To develop an ecosystem of platforms, Article 14 provides that a public authority can ensure actual and fair competition between the stakeholders, with a constant onus on innovation and market expansion.

This authority will be tasked with determining the information which the platforms will have to provide to consumers to enable comparison of their practices. The authority will decide on the level of accuracy and format of this information to be collected and on the indicators for assessing and comparing these practices. Lastly, when it considers the information provided to be insufficient, it may collect and disseminate the data required to keep consumers informed and to allow them to make comparisons. The purpose of this first step is to better objectify the practices of these platforms and to inform discussions, particularly at EU level, on potentially more restrictive economic regulation.

Article 15 regulates online reviews which are now one of the main sources of information for Internet users.

Article L.111-5-2 inserts a provision into the French Consumer Code which obliges websites publishing online reviews to expressly state whether said reviews have been verified. It stipulates that if websites do verify reviews, they have to clearly specify the main procedures. This new obligation will allow consumers to decide for themselves how much trust they can place in the reviews available and, thus, in the website which publishes them. Giving consumers the power to decide for themselves should make website managers more vigilant when putting reviews online and encourage the improvement of current practices.

The e-commerce boom is grounded in two complementary assumptions: the sector’s security guaranteed by the professionals and the resultant consumer confidence. As regards the latter assumption, online reviews play an ever-increasing role. According to a Nielsen report in 2013, 80% of Internet users take note of consumer reviews when purchasing goods and services online and 68% of those polled trust the opinions posted by other consumers. According to OpinionWay’s 2014 C2C survey, 74% of Internet users have not purchased a product owing to negative reviews.

Investigations conducted by the French Directorate General for Competition Policy, Consumer Affairs and Fraud Control (DGCCRF) into this subject have revealed an increase in fake reviews whereby professionals exert a direct or indirect influence on consumers’ assessment of a product or service marketed by themselves or other stakeholders. This may seriously undermine fair competition between professionals.

As EU law currently stands, systematic verification of online reviews cannot be imposed on businesses owing to the special legal status of platforms. This situation originates from Directive 2000/31/EC of 8 June 2000 which provides that these sites are not liable for the content they store. Before online reviews are able to be systematically verified, EU legislation on the status of platforms will have to be reformed.

In France, there is a standard on the collection, moderation and re-delivery of online consumer reviews but its application is voluntary. With the arrangements laid down for verifying posted reviews, the ambiguity between the concepts of an act of buying and consumer experience shows how difficult it is to develop a system for verifying online reviews. Lastly, even if professionals do comply with the standard, they cannot claim on their website that they verify online reviews as it is only a process that is certified.

However, the issue of the reliability of online reviews is obviously important both for consumers and businesses operating on the Internet. Whilst imposing systematic verification of reviews would place an excessive technical and material burden on some websites and compromise the wealth of sources of information for consumers, the fact remains that consumer confidence in online reviews, and more broadly in e-commerce, must be maintained.

To heighten transparency and improve information provided to Internet users, Article 15 provides that all websites collecting and publishing reviews shall state whether or not they have a verification procedure and, if so, describe it.

Lastly, Article 15(II) adds to the provisions of the French Consumer Code by introducing obligations concerning contractual information to consumers on fixed and mobile network speeds and on the compensation and repayment plans available when the specified speeds are not reached. These obligations contained in the Proposal for a Telecoms Single Market Regulation, which are intended to heighten transparency of traffic management practices and the standard of Internet access, complete the European framework established by Directive 2002/22/EC of 7 March 2002 as amended (“Universal Service Directive”) in respect of contractual information for users of electronic communications services, written into French law in Article L. 121-83 of the Consumer Code.

This initiative to enhance information for users of electronic communications services follows on from previous government measures to provide better information to consumers on the speed of electronic communication offerings (Order of 3 December 2013 on prior information to consumers on the technical features of Internet access offerings for fixed (wired) connections).

Inserting these new contractual transparency obligations into Article L. 121-83 of the Consumer Code will allow their terms and conditions of application to be specified, if need be, by means of an amendment to the implementing order referred to in the final paragraph of Article L. 121-83 (Order of 16 March 2006 on electronic communication service agreements).

Chapter II covers the protection of personal data.

Section 1 deals with the protection of personal data.

Article 16 enshrines the right of individuals to decide how their personal data is communicated and used. It represents a bold move to counter the general loss of control by individuals over this data by giving meaning to the rights already acknowledged by legislation (right of access, right to object, etc.).
This approach is distinct from the idea that the best solution is to include personal data in people’s asset base. Criticism can be levelled at this option as, in practice, individuals are not in a position to negotiate the transfer of rights over their data in view of the influence acquired by data controllers which are now essential stakeholders. As a result, it seems preferable to establish a right relating to an identifiable person , following on from similar provisions validated by the German Federal Court.

Article 17 aims to broaden the responsibilities of the CNIL. It is set to have a more upstream role by buttressing the rollout of a Privacy by Design approach.
The goal is also to bolster its role vis-à-vis the public authorities by allowing presidents of both houses of Parliament to make applications for an opinion to it in the event that a bill concerning personal data is tabled. Lastly, it could steer discussions on the ethical and societal issues raised by technological progress.

Article 18 stipulates that all data controllers can be provided with support in making data processing compliant. This possibility, which is in some ways an alternative to introducing a ruling on personal data, will provide businesses with improved legal certainty.

Article 19 sets forth the right to be forgotten for minors. The data controller is obliged to remove personal data as soon as reasonably possible when the person was a minor when the data was collected. For such cases, the Article stipulates a fast-track procedure. This Article should be coordinated with the EU’s Proposal for a Regulation on the protection of personal data which is currently under discussion.

Article 20 focuses on digital data management after death. As the Internet and social networks expand, Internet users are putting increasingly large amounts of data online. There are problems with managing this data after death as the heirs may neither know about nor have access to it.
As personal data following the death of the individual does not currently have a specific legal status, it is governed by ordinary law. This data pertains to the deceased and cannot be inherited by his/her heirs who, in turn, cannot retrieve it.

The purpose of Article 20 is to enable any person, during his/her lifetime, to make arrangements for the storage and communication of his/her personal data after his/her death. People will be able to send instructions concerning the treatment of their personal data to the CNIL or to a data controller, and may appoint a person responsible for carrying out these instructions.

Moreover, ISPs will have to inform the user about what will happen to this data after his/her death and let him/her choose whether or not to transfer it to the third party of his/her choice. In the same way as Article 19, Article 20 should be coordinated with the EU’s Proposal for a Regulation on the protection of personal data which is currently under discussion.

Article 21 overhauls the procedure for penalties in the event of a breach of personal data protection rules. In emergency circumstances, the deadline for formal notice from the CNIL may be reduced to 24 hours: if the observed breach cannot be remedied, the penalty may be applied immediately. Lastly, in the event of an immediate and serious infringement of rights and liberties, a court may order, at summary proceedings, any measure required to uphold these rights and freedoms. Like Articles 19 and 20, Article 21 should be coordinated with the EU’s Proposal for a Regulation on the protection of personal data which is currently under discussion.

Section 2 deals with the confidentiality of private correspondence.

Article 22 is intended to reiterate and heighten respect for the confidentiality of correspondence principle which is a basic tenet of communication law. At present, this principle only applies to electronic communications operators in spite of the fact that many online services (IP telephony services, social networks, online messaging services, etc.) now carry private correspondence. In addition, recent events have revealed that some of these online correspondence services fail to respect confidentiality and there has been widespread abuse of the integrity of correspondence. Article 22 underscores the basic principle of confidentiality of correspondence by stipulating its application to digital correspondence, and by making violations subject to the relevant criminal penalties. The Article sets out the instances when automated processing can be used to examine the content of correspondence (sorting, routing, elimination of spam emails and viruses).

The goal of Title III is to boost access to digital technology.

Chapter I of Title III has to do with digital technology and territorial coverage.

It is divided into two sections. The first deals with local government powers in terms of usage while the second concerns territorial coverage of electronic communication services.

Regional Digital Development Guidelines (schémas directeurs territoriaux d’aménagement numérique, SDTAN) provided for under Article L. 1425-2 of the French Local Authority Code, "record existing electronic communication infrastructure and networks, identify the areas they serve and draw up a strategy for expanding these networks, and particularly high-speed broadband fixed and mobile networks, including satellite-based networks, that will ensure full coverage for the geographical region in question." These guidelines, which are not binding, are intended to encourage consistency in public-sector initiatives and proper coordination with private investment (...).

Drafting an SDTAN is a prerequisite for a local authority preparing to roll out high-speed broadband with its jurisdiction. The SDTANs have been extremely successful, and as of 15 October 2014, only five of France's départements did not produce guidelines because they did not need to.

Article 23 of the bill involves extending the SDTAN approach to digital services by providing that local authorities may supplement the SDTAN with a development policy for digital uses and services available to users.

The goal of Article 24 is to bolster the transparency of information on territorial coverage of electronic communication services provided to ARCEP by operators. The Article obliges ARCEP to make data used, in particular, for drawing up coverage maps, public. Doing so will allow third parties to use this information and will ultimately help increase transparency, and set the conditions for fair competition.

Article 25 supplements provisions contained in the General Code for the Property of Public Bodies (CGPPP), with an eye to specifying which elements should be taken into consideration when calculating government fees. Amendments to the CGPPP provide that besides benefits of all kinds granted by the authorisation to use government resources, the fee factors in the need to roll out technologies allowing for the most efficient use of radiofrequency bands. The aim is for the amount of the fee to foster optimum use of the spectrum. Lastly, Article 25 enshrines the use, free-of-charge, of the radiofrequency bands that are not specially allocated to their user to encourage innovative band-sharing projects as recommended in the report called “Une gestion dynamique du spectre pour l’innovation et la croissance” (Dynamic spectrum management for innovation and growth) submitted by Joëlle Tolédano in March 2014.

Chapter II deals with using digital technology to simplify procedures.

Section 1 deals with electronic registered delivery services.

Following on from the European Regulation on electronic identification and trust services for electronic transactions (eIDAS) , Article 26 defines the requirements for electronic registered delivery and the methods for verifying compliance with these requirements.

By allowing electronic registered communication to be used for all types of exchanges, Article 26 thus seeks to promote the use of digital technology. It is also designed to win users' trust by setting out the requirements that service providers must meet so that such communications provide the same guarantees as registered letters.

Section 2 deals with payments to non-profit organisations by SMS.

Article 27 amends the arrangements governing payment transactions offered by providers of networks and electronic communication services for the purchase of digital content, voice services and tickets, or pursuant to charitable activities, in compliance with the provisions of the proposed revised Payments Services Directive (PSD2) which is in the process of being adopted. One of the main goals of these provisions is to streamline donations by SMS. These groups are committed to serving civil society, and need to find new donors and fresh sources of private-sector revenue to expand their charitable activities. The possibility of donating by SMS is keenly awaited by the non-profit sector so that it can reach new donors and build citizen involvement. French citizens and civil society share these hopes, as SMS-based giving is simpler, faster and is perfectly in line with the new digital practices.

Chapter III deals with access to digital technology by vulnerable populations.

Section 1 deals with access by those with disabilities to telephone services.

The goal of Article 28 is to provide the same access to telephone services for people who are deaf or hard of hearing as for other users. It introduces the obligation to supply a simultaneous written and visual translation. In the long-term, this access will allow the hearing impaired to call public services, non-profit organisations recognised as acting in the public interest or the customer service hotlines of companies of a certain size. Article 28 aims to make all the stakeholders accountable while taking account of the issue of the lack of qualified interpretive staff and the time required to train them.

Section 2 covers access to public-sector websites by persons with disabilities.

Article 29 makes it mandatory for government departments to make their websites accessible to those with disabilities. The websites of central government departments, local authorities and government-funded institutions must prominently display the degree to which they comply, or do not comply, with accessibility criteria, or face fines. All fines collected will be turned over to the Universal Accessibility Support Fund (fonds national d’accompagnement de l’accessibilité universelle).

Moreover, government departments must draft a multiyear strategy for making their websites and intranets, mobile apps and software applications accessible. These plans must specify how the addition and modification of content will be monitored and checked.

Section 3 has to do with continued Internet service in the case of non-payment.

Article 30 obliges ISPs to temporarily continue to provide service in cases of non-payment of invoices by the most disadvantaged members of society. Service must be maintained until the Housing Solidarity Fund has ruled on the application for financial assistance to the individual in question. This provision covers all individuals and families experiencing difficulties, particularly regarding their assets, lack of resources and living conditions. The goal is to extend the existing measures covering the supply of electricity, water, gas and landline services to Internet access.