On October 28, 2019, the FCA decided not to extend the five-year commitments undertaken by Altice upon acquiring SFR in 2014. Yet, the FCA maintained an injunction imposed on Altice in 2017 for co-deploying the fiber optic network with Bouygues Telecom.


On October 30, 2014, the FCA cleared Altice/ SFR subject to multiple commitments.[1] In particular, Altice undertook two main behavioral commitments:

Altice committed to give all telecom operators access to its cable network (the “Cable Access Commitment”).[2] Altice’s cable network offered features similar to the fiber optic network, allowing for very high-speed internet connections. The FCA was concerned that, post- transaction, Altice would pre-empt the demand for very high-speed internet connections in areas where competitors had not yet set up their fiber optic network.

Altice also committed to continue implementing SFR’s agreement with Bouygues Telecom for co-deploying the fiber optic network (the “Faber” agreement)[3] by (i) connecting, within two years, buildings that were already fiber-ready at the date of the decision and (ii) connecting other buildings within three months after they become fiber-ready. Altice also committed to offer transparent and non- discriminatory maintenance of the fiber optic network co-developed with Bouygues Telecom (“Bouygues-Related Commitments”).

These two behavioral commitments were made for a period of five years, starting on October 30, 2014, renewable once if justified by market conditions.

In 2017, the FCA fined Altice 40 million euros for failing to connect fiber-ready buildings in due time under the Bouygues-Related Commitments.[4] It also ordered Altice to (i) connect all fiber-ready buildings that had not yet been connected within one year, subject to penalty payments, and (ii) comply with the initial commitment to connect other buildings within three months after they become fiber-ready.

In October 2019, as the behavioral commitments were about to expire, the FCA examined whether to extend them in light of existing market conditions.

The Decision

On October 28, 2019, the FCA decided not to extend most of these commitments.

The FCA considered that it was not necessary to extend the Cable Access Commitment because other telecom operators, especially Orange, had significantly deployed their own fiber optic network since the Altice/SFR decision.

Regarding the Bouygues-Related Commitments, the FCA (i) maintained the 2017 injunction to connect fiber-ready buildings as it was still investigating whether Altice had complied with this injunction; but (ii) lifted the injunction to connect buildings that were not yet fiber-ready within three months after they became fiber-ready. The FCA considered that Altice’s incentives were now aligned with Bouygues Telecom’s and that the network would be deployed in accordance with the three-month period initially set, because (i) Altice had changed its business strategy and was now prioritizing the deployment of fiber optics over cable, and (ii) it amended the Faber agreement to incorporate stipulations similar to the commitment undertaken with the FCA.

Thus, after fining Altice for failure to comply with part of its behavioral commitments in 2017, the FCA decided, two years later, that most of Altice’s commitments had become obsolete due to recent changes in the industry. The decision shows that behavioral commitments in fast-changing industries can be more appropriate remedies than structural commitments, even though they require close monitoring from competition authorities.

[1]              Decision of the French Competition Authority of October 30, 2014, No.14-DCC-160.

[2]              The FCA was the first competition authority to accept a cable network access commitment, and has since then been followed by the Commission in the recent Liberty Global/Vodafone decision (Vodafone/Certain Liberty Global Assets (Case COMP/M.8864), Commission decision of July 18, 2019).

[3]              The Faber agreement is a co-financing agreement entered into by SFR and Bouygues Telecom in order to jointly deploy fiber optics in 22 municipalities located in high-density areas in France. In Altice/SFR, the FCA considered that, post-transaction, the merged entity would no longer have an incentive to implement the Faber agreement because Altice operated a cable network capable of providing similar features to the fiber network, and part of the areas covered by the Faber agreement overlapped with Altice’s own cable network.

[4]              Decision of the French Competition Authority of March 8, 2017, No.17-D-04. In 2016, the FCA had also imposed a 15 million euro fine on Altice for failing to comply with certain commitments related to the divestment of the mobile telecom business of Outremer Telecom (decision of the French Competition Authority of April 19, 2016, No.16-D-07).