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Macron’s proposed new Arcep head is a controversial choice

French president Emmanuel Macron has named Laure de la Raudière as his choice to lead the country’s telecoms regulator and not everyone is happy about it.

Aside from the usual disagreements based on political leanings, there is opposition to de la Raudière’s proposed appointment from within the telecoms sector too. Strong and highly vocal opposition.

Xavier Neil, French businessman, and founder and majority shareholder of Iliad, declared himself “surprised” by the president’s candidate in an interview with French new channel BFM TV on Monday. At that stage the news had been leaked by Les Echos but there had been no announcement from Macron. The president’s confirmation of the story came the following day.

“This cannot be more than a rumour. I can’t believe it could be correct,” Niel said.

Niel has no qualms about right-wing MP de la Raudière’s qualifications for the post, but fears her appointment would compromise Arcep’s independence.

“She is very competent; she knows the sector and telecoms itself well,” Niel said. “But frankly, I was a little surprised by this information since she worked for 15 years at Orange.”

A biography published by PR agency Aromates puts de la Raudière’s time at the French incumbent telco at closer to 11 years; she ended her stint with the operator as head of its Eure et Loir region in January 2001. But Niel’s point still stands: the proposed new Arcep head has extensive knowledge of the inner workings of the country’s largest telecoms operator and that surely casts doubt over her ability to be impartial.

That said, it is fully 20 years since de la Raudière left Orange. The telecoms space has changed almost beyond recognition in that time.

Further, you could argue that someone with in-depth telecoms experience is the ideal choice to head up the regulatory body, rather than a candidate with little knowledge of the market. De la Raudière’s career history is not limited to Orange. She left the telco in 2001 to partner in Pertience Data Intelligence, an early software analytics start-up that was acquired by Intercim, now part of Dassault Systems, and two years later founded consulting company Madisy, which subsequently merged with Navigacom.

She left the consulting space a decade ago to focus on politics, having been elected as the MP for the Eure-et-Loir department in 2007, a position she still holds. In 2017 she was one of the co-founders of right-leaning party Agir.

Macron himself has made no formal comment on de la Raudière’s qualifications for the job as Arcep president. In a short statement he named his candidate and turned the decision over to the National Assembly and the Senate for ratification.

Should de la Raudière get the nod, she will replace Sébastien Soriano – who has held the post since 2015 and whose mandate expired at the weekend – and will become the first female president of Arcep. That in itself will appeal to many, but it goes without saying that not all would cheer her appointment, as Niel’s comments clearly indicate.

“I think we need a man or a woman who knows telecoms as well as Laure de La Raudière, but who has not worked in the sector. That would be better,” he said.

That might also be a tough ask.


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