Connected Research

Union policy research in the 21st century

France broadband plan to be announced next month

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France’s LaTribune newspaper reported last Friday that French President Nikolas Sarkozy is to announce next month the finalisation of France’s plans for a ‘fibre optic France’, despite disagreements between operators over the regulatory framework that will apply which have held the plan up for months.

The report seems to stem from the endorsement of the plan by the European Commission in the previous week of the access regulation plans of the French telecoms regulator, ARCEP, under which all operators rolling out fibre lines into the homes of consumers will be charged with an access obligation regarding alternative operators whether or not they have significant market power.

La Tribune reports that, in the large cities of France, deployment of high speed broadband links based on fibre connections will be left to the discretion of private operators but in less populated areas, calls will be launched for projects that could be supported by the state through financial incentives. Alternative operators had called instead for a solution involving a mutually owned company – hence the regulatory hold-up.

Installing fibre throughout France is likely to cost a total of €30bn (£27bn), according to the newspaper.

It will be interesting to see the full details of the plan, when available, specifically from the perspective of how this compares with the UK’s plans for ‘digital Britain’. In this country, the investment in the ‘Final Third’ fund taking fibre beyond where the market (qv investment by other operators) would otherwise go, is much less than the figures being spoken about in France. Even if we add in investment by other operators, predominantly BT and Virgin Media, to install fibre in areas that offer greater commercial potential, the final figures don’t add up to anything like €30bn.

It seems from this decision – involving the largest government-backed fibre to the home project in Europe – that the European Commission is happy with fibre projects that involve state funding or subsidies to the extent that they provide a fibre service to homes that would otherwise be uneconomic to reach.

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Written by Calvin

16/11/2009 at 3:01 pm

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