France flexes its tech muscle with pending bill, new policies

If Digital France 2012 passes, l'Hexagone could see a slew of new tech-related laws.

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The French seem to be all over all kinds of new, far-reaching digital policy.

First, the French Senate “voted overwhelmingly” (297-15) late last week to create a sort of digital three strikes law, which after the third strike, would cut people off from the Internet. It’s not entirely clear how a law like this would be enforced, especially considering the fact that people can access the Internet from home, from their workplace, and also from free, public Wi-Fi hot spots, not to mention at other locations such as a public library.

The bill now heads to the French National Assembly for final approval.

But, as the BBC reported this morning:

If enacted, the law will put France on a collision course with Brussels, which rejected a call to impose such “three strikes” laws across Europe in April 2008.

Throwing people offline, it said, conflicted with “civil liberties and human rights”.

Second, late last month Eric Besson, a Sarkozy cabinet minister in charge of the “development of the digital economy,” presented a new 81-page Digital Plan 2012 for France, which apparently was one of Sarkozy’s presidential campaign promises.

If enacted, this would be one of the most ambitious technological policy plans in Western Europe in recent years. (And while I don’t mean to harp on Estonia, the Baltic powerhouse has had a few of these items, like digital ID cards and health records, for some time now.)

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Among other things, the report says that “high-speed Internet,” like water and electricity , is “essential.” And as such, 2 million to 4 million French citizens are without it — and the government needs to work such that by 2010, every single citizen has 512 kbps that costs no more than 35 euros per month. Further, every French citizen should have access to high-speed mobile Internet as well, which only covers 85 percent of the citizenry as of today.

Other proposals include:

- allowing the old analog television signals to be opened up to wireless and mobile Internet access.

- an electronic national identity card for each citizen starting in 2009 (Estonia already has this).

- a doubling of cyber-crime law enforcement agents by 2012

- the promotion of telecommuting in the public sector

- a digital medical file for each citizen by 2012

- a Green IT and Cleantech prize

- a migration away from the American-dominated ICANN toward a more multilateral and international organization to run the infrastructure of the Internet.

As of yet, this remains but a proposal — but an interesting and ambitious one — and if Sarkozy is serious about keeping his campaign promise, especially while France holds the the Presidency of the Council of the European Union until the end of the year, it could be a boon to France.

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