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French president promises €20bn broadband pot

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The new €20bn fund should transform access to ultra-fast broadband

François Hollande, president of the French republic and co-prince of Andorra, has promised an investment plan worth €20bn for the development of ultra-high-speed broadband in France, financed through a mix of private enterprise and state funds.

The plan is expected to give half of the nation’s citizens access to fibre-based high-speed services by 2017, and access to all within ten years, with the sale of 4G mobile spectrum expected to swell state coffers for the project.

Of the €20bn total, one third is to be provided by private companies targeting profitable urban areas, one third is to be co-financed by private operators and local authorities in less densely populated areas, and the final third is expected to be majority funded by the state.

The plan has already been welcomed by the advocacy body the FTTH Council Europe, following a dire few weeks for European fibre rollouts which saw the EU’s 3% budget haircut lead to the obliteration of a €9bn fund for fibre rollout in rural areas of the EU.

“The European Union government […] missed an opportunity to make a strong statement towards the importance of broadband and of the Digital Agenda in Europe,” says the FTTH Council Europe. “By reducing the Connecting Europe Facility 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.”

France currently languishes somewhere near the bottom of European rankings in terms of fibre penetration: a recent report revealed that the country presently finds itself in 18th place with a penetration rate of under 3%, above the Czech Republic but below Turkey, Ukraine and Hungary.

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