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French internet provider blocks ads in face-off with Google

media Hi-tech Minister Fleur Pellerin (L) with her colleages Nicole Bricq, Pierre … Reuters/Gonzalo Fuentes

France's Digital Economy Minister Fleur Pellerin was to hold crisis talks on Monday over a decision by the country's second largest telecoms company, Free, to block online advertisements.

Free has released a new package that allows users to block banner ads as their default setting and says that it will come into operation within “the next few days”.

  • Free has an estimated 5.2 million users in France;
  • Google’s estimated turnover in France is about 1.6 billion euros a year;
  • Free’s move could cost Goolge about a million euros a day.

Analysts believe the company is seeking to put pressure on US internet giant Google to play a bigger role in financing telecom infrastructure.

Access providers complain that big American providers take almost all adverstising revenue, often to enable them to provide free services, leaving the companies to pick up costs that are soaring, especially due to soaring demand for band-width-heavy video.

Dossier: Eurozone in crisis

The French government has warned the move threatens websites which depend on advertising revenue to operate and web advocates also say Free's move is harmful to online freedom.

Free's move contradicts the idea of a democratic internet, Jérémie Zimmermann of the online citizen advocacy group La Quadrature du net told RFI.

Pellerin was to meet representatives of Free, online publishers and advertisers on Monday to try and resolve the dispute.

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