While the French government did manage to get the ISP Free to unblock web ads, don't take this as the French suddenly waking up to the 21 century. Instead, they believe Free's publicity stunt at the expense of their subscribers, is great start on the "debate" over who should be paying for internet.
Any sane person shouldn't have difficulties in answering that question, it doesn't even make much sense to ask it since this isn't some theoretical notion, people are already paying for internet and, from the looks of it, there's nothing wrong with the system.
Well, nothing wrong apart from the fact that telcos and ISPs would like to make even more money than they are now.
What better way to do that than to sell the same thing, i.e. bandwidth, twice, once to their subscribers and second to the websites and services those subscribers use, the reason why they pay the ISPs in the first place.
Telcos have been suffering an identity crisis of sorts in recent years. They've been accustomed to high margins and little competition for decades, but they've more recently started being jealous of the type of profits internet companies are seeing.
And, the way they figure it, if these internet companies use their pipes to make money, they should pay.
For example, plenty of ISPs and especially mobile carriers have complained that YouTube eats up a lot of bandwidth and that Google should pay them for the traffic. The same is true for Netflix in the States.
Which, on the face of it, sounds somewhat reasonable, why should the carriers spend all the money on investing in infrastructure, while Google gets to benefit and make money off of YouTube and the likes?
But that only lasts for about half a second, until you realize that ISPs are getting paid for the bandwidth Google uses, by their subscribers.
That is why people pay for internet connections after all, to get the content they want. Imagine a bookstore selling you a book and then asking the author to pay as well.
Not only that, Google pays for the bandwidth it uses as well, quite obviously. In fact, Google's costs with YouTube are so large that the site may still not be profitable, years after it acquired it.
ISPs are afraid of becoming simply "dumb pipes," but once again their concerns seem to be lagging behind reality since they are in fact dumb pipes.
If they want a piece of the money web companies are making, there is a very simple solution, compete with them. But then, it wouldn't be "free money" anymore.