reports that European regulators have raided the offices as part of an investigation into anti-competitive behavior and antitrust abuses. According to the report, the regulators have raided the offices of Germany's Deutsche Telekom, France's Orange SA and Spain's Telefonica looking for evidence to support claims that the ISPs have been using their market dominance to give their own transit links a leg up competitively. The complaints originate with Cogent, who recently made similar allegations about Verizon here in the States
(Cogent CEO Dave Schaeffer said) the operators were using their commercial relationships with internet users in France, Germany and Spain to bolster their own global internet transport business, which competes with Cogent's. Another aim would be to negotiate higher fees from Cogent for delivering its traffic to users or favouring the telcos' own content, said Schaeffer. For example, Orange owns a video streaming website called Dailymotion that competes with YouTube.
"These telcos have refused to upgrade the capacity of the interconnections, resulting in poor quality of service to our customers and theirs," said Schaeffer.
While peering has traditionally been free, we've seen a growing number of complaints here in the states by transport and CDN companies that incumbent ISPs are trying to impose significant new hikes on them to help give their own such services a leg up. Cogent's fight with Verizon was only the latest (Verizon says the entire affair is Cogent's fault, and vice versa
); Comcast and Level3 also got caught up in a high profile feud back in 2010
Raids don't necessarily mean that antitrust abuses have occurred, but they're the first step in a healthy investigation (and a step you never see modern U.S. regulators taking when powerful incumbent ISPs are involved). The problem is that France already investigated similar claims by Cogent and ruled in Orange's defense that charging Cogent more was perfectly legal, a ruling Cogent is appealing. The EC clearly believes there may be more details to find.
Europe has been taking a tougher stance on incumbent gatekeepers, and is working on things like codifying network neutrality rules
and eliminating roaming fees in order to help give upstart content creators some help -- with the hopes of giving the European economy a much needed boost.
"The commission has concerns that the companies concerned may have violated EU antitrust rules that prohibit the abuse of a dominant market position," the EC said in a statement.