During the pandemic high-speed internet has become more important than ever before. Increasing numbers of people are working remotely and Covid restrictions and infections have left many spending nights and days in watching Netflix.
“Digitalisation has allowed our economy to resist the health crisis,” wrote Jean Castex.
Three out of four French people say that the roll out of high-speed should be a priority for the government. And many in the rural France in particular complain about slow connection speeds.
In a bid to address this problem, the Plan France Très Haut Débit (French high-speed internet plan) was launched back in 2013.
Backed with state financing to the tune of €3.57 billion, its purpose was to install digital infrastructure to ensure that everyone in France has access to high-speed internet by 2025.
Key to this process is the deployment of fibre optic cables. Once put installed in a geographical area or directly in individual houses, this technology can send information at 70 percent the speed of light – in other words, it can allow you to load articles on The Local France at a phenomenal pace.
So how exactly is this mission going?
Currently, two thirds of French households have access to high-speed internet, although these tend to be concentrated on urban areas.
The French government says that the country has installed more fibre-optic cables than any of its neighbours. Six million extra households gained access to high-speed internet, thanks to these cables, in 2020 alone. That year, the government invested a further €570 million on top of the Plan France Très Haut Débit spending to speed up the roll out.
The rate at which households are gaining access to high-speed internet is four times faster than in 2015.
In a report about the Plan France Très Haut Débit published in August 2021, Castex said “In three years, the digital divide has largely receded.”
But a graphic in that same paper revealed there wasn’t égalité across France and that some parts of the country did still enjoy better access to fibre optic cables than others.
In the dark green zones, which include Paris, Yvelines, Essone and Val d’Oise were more than 90 percent covered by fibre optic connections in 2021.
But many départements had a fibre optic coverage of less than 30 percent including: Landes, the Dordogne, Ardèche, the Hautes-Alpes, Savoie, Creuse, Vendée, the Côtes d’Armor, Orne, Yonne, Nièvre, Haute Saône and Jura.
The government want to expand fibre optic coverage to 80 percent by the end of this year. It has made an extra €150 million available from the “France Relance” initiative – a broad economic programme set up in 2020 to help the country bounce back from the economic fall out of the Covid-19 pandemic – to help achieve this.
Ariase, an internet service provider in France, estimates that if the deployment of fibre optic cables continues to accelerate, the government will surpass its target and bring high speed internet to 87 percent of households by the end of 2022.
If you live in an area that is connected via fibre optic cables, you do of course still need to pay a subscription to an internet provider to be able to surf the web.
The 21st century arrives in my hamlet in Normandy. Workers, mostly it seems eastern Europeans and people of north African origin, are erecting the fibre optic cables which will give us super high speed broadband by March. Every hamlet in Fr should be cabled by 2025. pic.twitter.com/aAGilw4MUR
— John Lichfield (@john_lichfield) January 6, 2022
When will my area install fibre-optic cables?
You can check when fibre-optic cables will be installed in your area via an interactive map made by the ARCEP, France’s electronic communications authority.
When using the map, you can should on the “Modes de vue” box on the righthand side. Then click “Avancé” and select “Vue prévisionnelle des déploiements fibre.”
This allows you to see whether the installation of cable is complete, began in 2021 or whether it will begin in 2022 or 2023.
Other internet policies
The government categorises some 13 million French people a “distanced from digitalisation” – in other words, technologically illiterate. It allocated a budget of €250 million in 2021 to help people better grasp how to use the internet.
Part of this budget has gone on a scheme called “Aidants Connect” in which social workers and other government employees give tutorials, some of which are in-person, to help people struggling to complete administrative tasks online. The initial series of trainings has now passed but more might become available. If you are interested in receiving training, you should sign up to the newsletter via the form at the bottom of this page, to receive alerts if new slots become available.
In terms of mobile coverage, the country is doing much better and the regional differences are far less pronounced.
The government launched a “Mobile New Deal” in January 2018, in conjunction with telecoms companies, which saw thousands more areas gain access to 4G internet. More than 97 percent of the French population now live in 4G zones.
As part of the Mobile New Deal Initiative, many mobile operators, including Orange and SFR now offer 4G internet boxes and fixed tarif in areas where fibre optic connection internet connection is limited. Once these boxes are installed, you will be able to use WiFi generated by 4G signal.