Life on La Lune passed its 9th birthday last week on 14th February. A few things have changed since then, not least our ability to access the internet. When I published my first post (the present one is the 628th), we were still using a dial-up connection. After all this time, the electronic tune the modem played each time we switched it on is engraved on my memory.
When we moved here in 1997, the internet was in its infancy. We bought plane tickets and booked hotels by telephone. We transmitted documents to clients using a fax machine. Remember those? The fact that we didn’t have ADSL (broadband) wasn’t a big problem at that point. Fast forward a few years, and it started to become one.
The internet takes off – but we don’t
Websites became more elaborate and slower to load. Downloading a large document or a computer programme took hours with our dial-up connection. You could polish the furniture, do the ironing and then vacuum the whole house while you waited. We had a clean house, but that was the only plus side.
We still had no ADSL because we are at the end of the phone line a long way from the exchange. In fact, considering that the line loops between the branches and is regularly pulled down by passing tractors, it was amazing that any data was transmitted at all. For a long time, until France Telecom finally came out and fixed it, the line didn’t work when it rained.
Beam me up, or down
Along came satellite technology: the only way we could get faster internet speeds. We bit the bullet and paid several hundred euros for all the kit: satellite dish, cables, modem, router, etc. This worked better for a while, until the traffic to and from the satellite became too dense and the speeds dropped.
The solution: change satellite, but this also involved buying completely new kit, despite the fact that it was the same company that supplied it. We bit the bullet again and shelled out the euros.
Temporary success. The connection to the new satellite was much faster. The downside was that we had a download quota and if we exceeded it we had to pay extra on top of the 55€ per month we paid just for the internet connection. And, of course, as the internet became ever more sophisticated, our usage increased with it. The telephone was not included and that was 30€ per month via the fixed line.
Flirting with fibre-optics
The French government announced its intention to hook up everyone in the country to a very high-speed internet connection by 2022, with broadband speeds of at least 30 Mbps. We would grit our teeth when friends flaunted their village’s fibre optic connection with eye-watering download speeds, and all for only 38€ per month, phone included. We joked that we would be the last ones to be connected at 11.59 p.m. on 31st December 2021. But the ‘Plan France Très Haut Débit 2013-2022’ shows signs of creaking at the seams, owing to funding shortfalls and a lack of a coherent approach to implementation.
However, I’m delighted to announce that we have got at least part of the way there. Last year, a fibre-optic hub was installed a couple of kilometres away à vol d’oiseau (as the crow flies). For the first time, we were eligible to join the club. We are now the proud owners (well, renters) of a Livebox, which does the telephone as well. It doesn’t achieve the speeds the government aspires to. But we pay a lot less for it.
In a country the size of France, which has some very sparsely-populated areas, the technical and financial challenges of upgrading everyone to high-speed internet are considerable. If you’re thinking of moving to a rural area in France, check the bandwidth and how it’s delivered. For a more detailed description of the current situation, click here.
What have your experiences been with the internet in France?
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