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Is France’s plan for nationwide high-speed internet by 2025 on track?

France launched a high-speed internet plan nearly a decade ago aiming to ensure fast connection times for everyone throughout urban and rural areas by 2025, becoming the first European country to do so. So how is that going so far?

Protruding wires in a French data centre.
Protruding wires in a French data centre. The government wants all French households to have high-speed internet by 2025. (Photo by ALAIN JOCARD / AFP)

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.

MAP When will my part of France get high-speed internet

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. 

This graphic shows the rate at which households are gaining access to fibre optic cabling that ensures quick internet access. The different colours correspond to the number of households gaining access during different quarters of the year Q1, Q2 etc. Source: Agence Nationale de Cohésion des Territoires

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. 

A map shows how much access different French départements have to fibre optic connection. The darker the green, the faster the internet. Source: Agence Nationale de Cohésion des Territoires

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. 

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 Connectin 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. 

Member comments

  1. Now the thing about fibre optic is that it is best laid underground to minimise disruption. Here by us they are stringing this across the existing poles that hold the telephone and power cables so we will have the same issue that we have two to three times a year of our friendly local farmer cutting the line or taking out one or more of the poles that support it. With the current cabling it takes Orange around 6 weeks to repair each time…but you cannot just patch fibre optic (unless things have changed)…if the cable is snapped the entire length has to be replaced, adding to the cost and I am sure, delay in getting it done.

  2. Interactive map access just comes up with “Votre navigateur Internet ne permet pas d’afficher cette page. Veuillez le mettre à jour.” ?????

  3. Our village did the same. The cabling can go underground but the commune has to pay for the extra costs. We are a poor village with just 50 houses, and the commune cannot afford the underground version.

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TECH

What you need to know about the EU’s plan for a uniform phone charger

The European Union has approved a new regulation that would force tech companies to use a standard charger for mobile phones and electronic devices. What does this mean?

What you need to know about the EU's plan for a uniform phone charger

The European Parliament has approved an agreement establishing a single charging solution for frequently used small and medium-sized portable electronic devices. The law will make it mandatory for specific devices that are rechargeable via a wired cable to be equipped with a USB Type-C port.

The rules have been debated for a while, and the announcement of the agreement has caused controversy, especially among tech companies and enthusiasts. US giant Apple has repeatedly lobbied against the standardisation, saying it halts innovation.

The EU says that the new rules will lead to more re-use of chargers and “help consumers save up to €250 million a year on unnecessary charger purchases”. Disposed of and unused chargers are estimated to represent about 11,000 tonnes of e-waste annually, the bloc says.

So, what exactly are the changes?

Which products will be affected?

According to the European Parliament, the new rules are valid for small and medium-sized portable electronic devices. This includes mobile phones, tablets, e-readers, earbuds, digital cameras, headphones and headsets, handheld videogame consoles and portable speakers that are rechargeable via a wired cable.

Laptops will also have to be adapted, the EU says.

Those devices will have to be equipped with a USB Type-C port regardless of their manufacturer.

When will the changes come?

For most devices, the changes are set to come by autumn of 2024. However, the date is not yet set because the regulations need to go to other proceedings within the EU bureaucracy.

After the summer recess, The EU’s Parliament and Council need to formally approve the agreement before publication in the EU Official Journal. It enters into force 20 days after publication, and its provisions start to apply after 24 months, hence the “autumn 2024” expectation.

Rules for laptops are a bit different, and manufacturers will have to adapt their products to the requirements by 40 months after the entry into force of the laws.

Where are the rules valid?

The rules will be valid for products sold or produced in the European Union and its 27 member countries. But, of course, they will likely affect manufacturers and promote more considerable scale changes.

The USB-C cable, with the rounded edges, will be the standard for charging in the EU (Photo by مشعال بن الذاهد on Unsplash)

Why the uniform USB Type-C?

The bloc said the uniform charger is part of a broader EU effort to make products more sustainable, reduce electronic waste, and make consumers’ lives easier.

“European consumers were frustrated long with multiple chargers piling up with every new device”, EU Parliament’s rapporteur Alex Agius Saliba said.

USB Type-C is a standard of charging that has been around for a while but still is one of the best options currently in the market. Also known as USB-C, it allows for reliable, inexpensive, and fast charging. A USB-C port can also be input or output, meaning that it can both send and receive charges and data.

Unlike other ports, it can be the same on both ends of the wire (making it easier and more universal in its use). It can also power devices and sends data much faster.

USB-C can also be used for video and audio connections, so some external monitors can charge your laptop and show your screen simultaneously with the same cable.

What criticism is there?

The project is not without criticism, most vocally from US tech giant Apple, a company that famously has its own charging standard, the “lightning” connection.

Apple claims that forcing a standardisation will prevent innovation, holding all companies to the same technology instead of allowing for experimentation. Still, Apple itself has been swapping to USB-C. Its iPads have already dropped the lightning standard. Its newer laptops can now be charged with the MagSafe proprietary connector and USB-C.

Apple iPhones are still charged with the company’s lightning ports – or wirelessly (Photo by Brandon Romanchuk on Unsplash)

The company’s popular earbuds and peripherals (including keyboards and mice) all charge with lightning. And, of course, the iPhone, Apple’s smartphone, also uses the company’s connection for charging.

While there have been rumours that Apple is working on new iPhones with USB-C connection (though definitely not for the next launch this year’s), the company could go away with wired charging altogether. Instead, like many tech manufacturers, Apple is improving its wireless charging solutions, even creating products dedicated to its MagSafe charging.

It won’t be completely free from the EU regulation if it does that, though. This is because the rules approved by the EU also allow the European Commission to develop so-called “delegated acts” concerning wireless charging. The delegated acts are faster processes that can be applied directly without being put to the vote.

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