France Puts U.S. Broadband Plan to Shame

It’s getting hard to believe that this country is the once invincible nation that could have ruled the world after WW II. Every time I look around, something else we have been promised is not coming after all, and another country is surpassing us in one form or another.

This is not any reason to move to Canada, but it certainly is a time for each of us to find out what we can personally do to change this nation back to that one that led the world in all the right comparisons (instead of the wrong ones, like having more of its people in jail than any other on the planet).

As I read some of the stories I only glossed over earlier this week, I see that on Ars Technica there is a story of how France will be enacting a plan to serve the entire nation with 100 Mbps broadband and have 70% of the population able to use it. Now this won’t come immediately, but that fact is given to us to somehow palliate our angst when contemplating how this country has fallen behind countries like France, which used to be a pretty good subject of ridicule for many of its somewhat backward ways.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy loves himself some broadband—as long as no one is trading copyrighted files—and he has just announced a government investment initiative designed to bring 100Mbps Internet to most French citizens in the next decade.

Sarkozy wants to pump nearly US$7 billion into development of national broadband networks, with the money to be raised from a bond issue called the grand emprunt (“big loan”). The emprunt is a stimulus plan designed to boost the French economy as it pulls out of the worldwide economic crisis. Most of the money will be raised through a bond issue, but the rest will come from large institutions (think: banks) that were bailed out by the French government over the last year and are now repaying their debts.

Other countries like Spain and Finland are aiming for a national baseline of 1Mbps to all households over the next year or two; France wants faster speeds, but over a longer timeframe. And 100Mbps, while it sounds fast now, won’t be particularly quick in a decade. The good news, though, is that the only way to reach such speeds in France is probably through fiber (Europe not generally having a real robust cable infrastructure), and fiber is easily capable of speed upgrades.

That’s probably a good thing for France, because otherwise Comcast would somehow get in there to muck it up.

Governments across the world are now explicitly recognizing the value of broadband as a public utility that should be available to all citizens. Spain and Finland are using a “universal service” funding model to subsidize more expensive locations, while countries like Australia are taking a “we’ll build it ourselves” approach to a national fiber backbone. The UK is encouraging incumbent last-mile operator OpenReach to roll out “open access” fiber. As for the US, the government has done little to date apart from funding some school and library Internet access, though that may change at least a bit when the first National Broadband Plan is rolled out early in 2010.

We can’t seem to get anything going in this country lately, except wars. Yes, we know how to start those. If only there was money in it.


Lemon_Party perhaps they have a better plan…it’s certain the two party system here is not doing it.

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