French watchdog bites Skype

French telephone watchdogs have ordered the nasty roast beef eating Skype to set itself up legally as a telco.

The French Telecommunications and Posts Regulator, ARCEP, has sent a stiffly worded letter to the Paris public prosecutor, asking it to investigate whether Skype has failed to comply with an obligation to register as a telecommunications operator.

According to IT World,   if Skype was a telco it would have to provide emergency calling services and allow for lawful interception of communications.

While the watchdog is not worried about Skype’s PC-to-PC voice and video calls over the Internet it is particularly concerned about the Skype Out service, which allows users to use their PC or smartphone to call numbers on the public-switched telephone network in France and other countries.

This turns the service into an electronic communications service in the eyes of the law, it claimed.

While providers of such services do not require a licence in France, they must declare themselves to the authorities or risk criminal prosecution.

ARCEP has written to Skype several times asking it to declare itself as an electronic communications operator, but Skype has refused.

At the moment Skype has little difficulty allowing lawful interception of calls but it is worried about being forced to provide French emergency services with the location of those making emergency calls.

Skype can 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 position.