when a private operator has a state in hand

All emergency numbers in France – ambulance, firefighters, police and gendarmerie and others – became unavailable on Wednesday night until Thursday morning, due to a malfunction on the router of the IP telephone network. The government is talking about a very serious situation. The telecommunications company Orange, responsible for emergency numbers, ruled out a cyber attack as a cause of system paralysis.

Interior Minister Gerard Darmanen interrupted his visit to Tunisia and returned to Paris, President Emanuel Macron said that the balance was not yet known, but that he was very worried, while Health Minister Olivier Veran said: “We almost escaped disaster. ”

According to initial estimates, at least four people (including one child) died due to the inability to receive medical assistance on time.

A trademark of the state-owned telecommunications company of France, which no longer exists

The meaning of privatization of state telecom

When it was noticed that the emergency telephones were not working, ten-digit backup telephone numbers were activated, which, it is true, could only be seen by those who had access to the Internet.

All eyes are now on the private telecommunications company Orange. In 2013, it became the successor of the traditional state operator France Telekom after a rather complicated privatization process that many have challenged because state-owned telecom has been doing great business for decades.

Stéphane Richard, CEO of Orange, submitted a report to the government in an emergency meeting on Thursday morning. Unlike the ministers and the president, in his address to the press, he claimed that the telephone traffic to the landlines over the IP network had normalized as early as 10 pm on Wednesday.

This event from yesterday is in the center of media and public attention. In the context of preparations for next year’s elections, the question now arises as to the meaning of the privatization of the former telecom for ideological reasons and why even the strategic sector has been left to private individuals, including those from abroad. The question is important because it concerns two key words of the election campaign that has already started unofficially: security and sovereignty.

Dr Christophe Prudhomme, a spokesman for the Association of Emergency Doctors, said the doctors’ anger was high because the incident was predictable.

“We have been insisting for years that our systems are not secure due to the proliferation of telephone operators,” he said. This is an allusion to what happened four months ago in Belgium, where there was a similar paralysis of IP fixed telephony systems and emergency numbers.


Stéphane Richard, CEO of Orange

EU directives and the dismantling of the state

The question remains, who is responsible to the citizens because of this paralysis of emergency services? By definition, the state is responsible for the good functioning of the public service – but …

Since ten billionaires own most of the French media, which determines their pro-neoliberal editorial line, the idea that paralysis of emergency services has nothing to do with the fact that a private group controls telecommunications even in a sector that is undoubtedly strategic prevailed in yesterday’s televised debates.

Is it really irrelevant here that telecommunications and the IP landline network are entirely in private hands?

The chronology of the privatization of the French telecom is also the chronology of the dismantling of the French state, in accordance with the directives of the European Union and the rules of “market economy” and “demonopolization” of public companies Telecom, La Poste, Elektrodistribucija (EDF), etc. She is part of the wider chronology “Easy deaths of public companies”

A report by the CGT union from 2018 warns that there are numerous similarities between large public companies in the field of infrastructure “which were the pride of our country”.

The history of the privatization of the French PTT company begins in 1998, when the socialist Hubert Prévot submitted a “pre-report” to the competent minister dedicated to the “place of the public service of post and telecommunications” in France. Prevo then talks about a “public service with an industrial and commercial vocation that cannot turn its head away from the laws of the market” and announces the “splitting” of PTT into two groups: the Post and Telecom.

As early as 1996, French Telecom was transformed into an anonymous company with 100% public capital. Only a year later, Telecom enters the financial markets, followed by a period of “investment bulimia”. Telecom invests excessively by buying: the British Orange (Orange UK) for more than 50 billion euros and the German Mobilcom for 10 billion euros, etc.


Dr. Christoph Pridom, spokesman for the Association of Emergency Physicians

New management

Just four years after entering the financial markets, France Telecom will become the most indebted company in the world with a debt of 70 billion euros. Until then, Franstelecom always operated with a profit.

It follows through reorganizations that will lead to a social crisis in 2009 of such magnitude and intensity that in a period of only a few months, a total of 50 employees will commit suicide. The weakest suffered – those who could not stand the brutal change in the public service that is part of French culture.

In addition to the mass layoffs, the remaining employees were put in a situation where they were competitors to each other and supported each other. It is over with the postman who talks to the recipients of pensions, and they share it. If someone is lonely, he can ask the postman to come to the postman or someone else – but to pay for it as a service from the subscription catalog.

The then director Didier Lombard will be remembered for similar inhuman methods of the so-called “new management”. We also remember him for commenting to the press:

“There seems to be a suicide epidemic here.”

However, ten years later, Lombar will be sentenced to four months of strict imprisonment and six months probation for “moral harassment of employees”. His successor, Richard, yesterday first apologized to the citizens and expressed his condolences to the families of the deceased.

Where is the telecom today, which was renamed Orange in 2013?

Once upon a time, in 1997, Franstelecom had 170,000 employees. There are only half of them left in the company, renamed Orange: 85 thousand. If we take into account the employees in telecommunication companies that also resulted from the privatization of Franstelecom, it turns out that 70 thousand jobs were closed in a little over three decades.

“We have been promised investments of 20 billion in high-speed internet – it turned out that two thirds of that amount will come from the local government budget – which means from taxes.” They promised us that through the telecom collective agreement, our diplomas and abilities would be better. valued than when we were public service officers. In reality, they resorted to hiring sub-contractors, and then to cheap labor from abroad who live and work in unworthy conditions and receive a meager salary. “Our call centers have also been relocated ‘for economic reasons’, mainly to North Africa,” the Orange trade union analysis said.

Price reductions were also promised, but the prices of telecom services have increased in 25 years and make up 6% of the household budget instead of the former 3%.


French Interior Minister Gerard Darmanen

False promises

As for the quality of the service, the union states impressive data: “We were promised that the services would be of better quality. Where we solved faults within 24 hours, now we have to wait for 15 days. In the 1990s, we were the first country in the world to cover the territory with the ADSL network (high-speed internet), thanks to the copper network built by the state. According to the OCD, we are now ranked 44th in the world. “

The union also reports that privatization has set the research sector “sacrificed” backwards, and France is now lagging behind Asia and the United States.

“The whole industry has been destroyed. Our partners – Sagem, Alcatel, Thomson – are cut as is the case with Nokia – Europe, Siemens telecom ili Erikson. “

Orange ended last year with a debt of 23.5 billion, not because of investments but because of acquisitions around the world. However, everyone points to it as an example of successful privatization.

Where is the success here – many will ask?

It is considered a success that in three decades, since 1997, shareholders have been paid dividends in the amount of 45 billion euros, which means almost everything that the group has earned. In addition, 40 billion was paid to banks in the name of financial costs.

This brings us back to the initial question: is it really irrelevant for a router failure that blocked all emergency services in the country that the entire telecommunications system depends on a private company like Orange?

The chronology of the privatization of the French telecom shows that this is very important. Unlike the public sector, which often suffers from bureaucratization, the private operator has as its ultimate goal – the payment of dividends. This does not give him the opportunity to invest sufficiently in research and in the quality of infrastructure, necessary for a strategic sector of great importance for the public interest. A model is in place according to which the payment of dividends is more important than investments in research and the quality of infrastructure.

We have seen the epilogue in other examples in France and the world. When there is nothing more to get out of a privatized public company, the state will be invited to help this or that business segment, to pay debts with taxpayers’ money.

Source: Balkan Magazin – Aktuelnosti by www.balkanmagazin.net.

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