The study by consumer group UFC Que Choisir said that nearly 10 per cent of the population, almost all of them in the countryside or in small towns and villages, has to put up with internet access speeds of less than three megabytes a second.
Many rural areas of France have slow and unreliable internet connections. Photo: AFP
And nearly 20 per cent of the population does not have access to a “good high speed” internet connection – defined by the government as being between eight megabytes a second and 30 megabytes a second.
We asked The Local's readers in rural areas about their experiences of getting a good internet connection, and most agreed that services outside the big urban centres are poor.
Experiences include those of Tom Bolton, who builds websites for a living but frequently has to go to his local McDonald's to get a good enough connection.
Tom, who lives in the Charente, said: “The telephone cables to our village are so old and fragile that Orange will no longer come out and put them back on the poles when they fall down.
“Because of this, the internet is very intermittent while using it, and as you work messages flash across the screen saying internet is off, then internet is on.
“I build websites for a living and if there are a lot of pictures to upload – I go to McDonald's in Ruffec.”
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Stephen Wright, who lives in Haute Gironde in southwest France, said: “Some days the service is poor but most days it’s worse. I can use email and simple web browsing but downloading anything is a joke.”
Stephen Campbell, who lives in the Aude region of southern France said: “Before we had satellite internet the ADSL just got steadily worse until it was impossible to function. But the problem with the satellite internet is that it is data limited and expensive.”
John Starr added: “We have lived here in rural Dordogne for over 12 years and the major cause of frustration for us has been the extremely bad internet and mobile telephone service.
“The Maire has tried to get Orange to improve the service and the answer is always that the service is going to be improved in the future.
“Twelve years on and we believe that the service has got worse as more people have to use it and the pressure on the service is building up. Even our French farmer neighbours have told us that trying to get the necessary administration forms completed by internet is their greatest problem.”
Consumer group UFC Que Choisir said that the “digital divide” seen between big towns and the countryside was all the more problematic as the government is making more and more of its services available only through the internet.
Many villages do not have access to fibre services for broadband. Photo: AFP
For many of those in small villages, the roll-out of fibre optic services is the answer to their problems, but many people complained of a lack of information on when – or even if – fibre services were coming to their area.
Delyth Thomas, who lives in Villeneuve-sur-Lot, said: “I'd like to get fibre but nobody can tell me when this will happen. So lack of accessible information is a problem.”
As well as the services not being developed, a second problem was rapidly increasing internet use putting even more strain on elderly connections and services.
Ken Perch, who lives in the Orne region of northwestern France, said: “The biggest problem appears to be caused by most people now opting to watch TV via the internet, with a package deal from Orange. As soon as the village kids get home from school our internet speed halves and stays that way until 11pm.”
Although bad internet connections were a source of frustration for many people, it was particularly difficult for those who rely on the internet for their work.
John Starr added: “We are both working in the immobilier business and it is very difficult to answer clients on time if the internet is down and every picture you have to send has to be reduced significantly to send it.
“This all takes time and adds to frustration. We used to run a gîte business and gave it up due to no or bad internet as clients want all the modern services when they come to stay.”
But the news wasn't all bad, as some areas of France reported good speeds and a reliable service.
Vince Holmes, who lives in the Pas-de-Calais region of northern France, said: “We had a new house completed last summer.
“The price of getting the physical cable laid to the house was prohibitively expensive, and that was not even fibre as it doesn’t exist in the village.
“We ended up getting a 4G box from Bouygues, and I’m so pleased we did. We regularly get over 40Gb/sec, which is more than I get in my UK house which has fibre!”
He added: “We’re told that the village will be getting fibre at some point in the future, but until then we’re capped on 100GB per month, so no streaming video or TV.”
And Deborah Eade, who lives in the Haute-Savoie region of western France, described her internet use as “easy” with no problems.
And internet provider Orange – used by the majority of people as in several areas it is the only option – was singled out for providing good customer services and support.