French president outlines broadband program

Little more than a week and a half after the European Union voted February 8 to slash funding to support broadband networks across the continent (see “European Union slashes broadband funding”), France has stepped up to help fill the gap. French President Francois Hollande outlined a program that will see 20 billion euros ($27 billion) spent over the next 10 years to install new broadband networks – potentially including fiber to the home (FTTH) or fiber to the cabinet (FTTC) – in his country.

Little more than a week and a half after the European Union voted February 8 to slash funding to support broadband networks across the continent (see “European Union slashes broadband funding”), France has stepped up to help fill the gap. French President François Hollande outlined a program that will see 20 billion euros ($27 billion) spent over the next 10 years to install new broadband networks – potentially including fiber to the home (FTTH) or fiber to the cabinet (FTTC) – in his country.

"High-speed broadband will strengthen the competitiveness of our companies and the quality of our public services," President Hollande said in a speech announcing the plan, according to Reuters. "It is an opportunity to preserve and develop employment."

The funds will be split into three phases of 6 million euros each, with network operators responsible for the first. The second will come from both operators and local governments, and the third from local and state governments. The local government money will be raise via tax-free, regulated deposits collected by state bank Caisse des Depots.

President Hollande expects the program will see half the country covered with broadband networks by 2017.

Karen Ahl, president of the Fiber to the Home Council Europe, was quick to applaud the news. "The FTTH Council Europe welcomes the announcement of the French government about investing 20 billion EUR into ultra‐fast broadband infrastructure with a special focus on future‐proof fiber in the coming years,” said in a statement released today. “Two weeks ago the European Union government decided to reduce the broadband budget in the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) from 9 to 1 billion EUR. In doing so, they missed an opportunity to make a strong statement towards the importance of broadband and of the Digital Agenda in Europe. By reducing the CEF budget, the European governments also took the individual responsibility to ensure a positive investment framework for future‐proof fibre broadband in their countries. With François Hollande's announcement on Wednesday, France made a clear statement that it is willing to take this responsibility. The FTTH Council Europe welcomes this decision and hopes that other EU countries will follow the example of France very soon."

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