Internet: why is France so behind?
Your thoughts on internet speeds and the user-friendliness of French websites
When I moved to France, as I am used to buying from the net, I went to many websites of large stores and other suppliers, only to find they have a basic front page which only tells you where stores are and their opening hours.
I had expected to be able to buy direct on the web but this has proved in many cases to be impossible.
It is little wonder that so many of us are still sending for purchases from the UK. We are used to efficiency, customer service, guarantees that are honoured and replies to communications.
My dial up is now too slow to use at all and the mairie profess complete ignorance of anything that will help. All in all it makes life very difficult.
The trouble in almost every area of technology in France is that there are not enough good operators to go round. Projects are started well and then abandoned to people who have very little enthusiasm to make it work. C'est la vie.
For a long time I've sighed with frustration every time I try to use the internet to buy goods in France or find out enough about what's available.
First of all, many sites do not give prices. Unless the company involved is a large retailer - like Leroy Merlin or Castorama - they are hopelessly coy about how much they charge.
On the internet you can get sometimes get lots of technical information but not prices.
Firms love to cut a dash and seem proud simply to have a website, especially if it has sound and movement. They hardly seem to consider the people who might actually want to use that site rather than just look at it.
I subscribe to an Orange internet "bundle" which provides connection speed of 8Mb - unlimited free telephone calls within Metropolitan France - TV and a "bouquet" of channels.
Except connection speed is about 2Mb if you live in rural France and therefore TV is not available BUT the cost to the user remains the same. Live in Paris, Bordeaux, Lyon, Marseille and you get the lot - elsewhere only a part of the deal - just costs the same.
One of the things that annoys me most about certain offers is to do with 'free TV' which I cannot get because I am not on an ADSL network that is fast enough.
That I do not want their TV offer has nothing to do with it. It's added to the package. I lived in the UK for 42 years as a teacher of languages and returned to France in 2007. I am sure such an offer would not be made in the UK.
I find that French internet information is usually very brief and at times I wonder why that they have bothered to have a website at all. However there are a few exceptions and the one that comes to mind immediately is SNCF.
We live in a small hamlet in southern France, about 40 minutes from Perpignan and close to the Spanish border. It is rural but not very isolated - we are less than 2 km from the nearest village which has ASDL, and only 6-7 kms from the nearest town. We only have a very slow dial-up access to the internet - usually around 40 Kbps.
Like other folk in our commune who are similarly disadvantaged, we have approached the local mairie who raised the matter with the Conseil Général. The response was negative and apathetic - no chance of any improvement - WiFi won't work because of the geography of the area, France Telecom aren't planning to improve the telephone line anytime soon, there is no signal for 3G, so if you want anything better you will have to pay much more for a satellite connection - and sorry, no grants for that either as in other parts of France.
Given the promises that the French government have made in the past that all France would have ASDL by now, we feel somewhat cheated and as if our rights as French residents are being ignored. We pay our taxes like everyone else and live here year round - France is our permanent home. We reckon it is about time someone took the government to the Court of Human RIghts about this - a gallic shrug is not the answer! If we cannot be provided with ASDL by telephone line because of our location, why doesn't the government give us a subsidy to help us afford a satellite system? We are being unfairly penalised because of the rural location of our home - and we are not alone - 3% of rural France still doesn't have ASDL connection, despite all the previous promises and commitments.
Being retired, the internet is very important to us - both to keep in touch with family and friends and also for research - my partner is a writer. We are reluctant to pay almost three times what our present frustrating dial-up system costs us each month just for the privilege of having a slightly better satellite system which doesn't have unlimited use and which may not work any more efficiently. And that is without the cost of the installation and the new dish etc that would be needed. Do you have any idea of when things might improve for us country-dwellers? Is there any way that we can access ASDL relatively inexpensively? If you can put any pressure on 'the powers that be' to get this situation improved, we should be very grateful.
Last year contractors laid cables for haut-debit internet access along the route of the extension of the A75 in the Herault. These cables were laid along a road which comes within the boundaries of our village, passing no more than a matter of feet from some houses and well within a kilometre for the majority of houses. Despite constant demands from our municipality this access was not extended to the villagers.
The Maire has been told that the only way we could get this service would be to erect a radio mast in the village. This is not a favoured option because of the number of European studies which have indicated health hazards arising from such a system. This seems to fly in the face of the government’s vision of access for all as well as going against its ‘green’ credentials.
Negotiations continue. With speeds on offer in the UK of up to 20 meg has France, having led the way, yet again fallen behind the competition?
I think France is way behind the US in terms of website content, ease of use and ordering online. I really miss doing business online, even after ten years in France.
Karen Magliocca Rocheteau
The majority of French web sites that I have visited appear to be about 10 years behind UK web site development. Slow to load, poor interactivity, missing links, lack of information (especially pricing) and chaotic layouts seem to be the norm.
Public utilities, i.e. France Telecom, EDF, are useless websites. Too interested in advertising how wonderful they are, rather than giving useful information.
I’ve been trying to find out what the new regulations are – in detail – in order to get approved by SPANC, for our filtration system. The mairie won’t say, the websites are hopeless.
SNCF tell you there is a train when there isn’t; vice versa they say there is no train, but the station tell you there is.
So, yes, French public info websites need improvement.
The internet is crucial to our lives here because I have to do bank transfers between UK and here not to mention a million and one other things I want to find out or do. I can't use my webcam, I can't view live news videos and it's all just so slow.
Being from Sweden I find French Internet and web pages very primitive when it comes to functionality. Internet is mostly slower and falls out quite often. Web pages are overloaded and have a very bad design and functionality.
If you want an example of a disastrous on-line business, take a look at La Poste's on-line banking system. Make an on line transfer between your accounts, and it will take days for the money to actually move. The statement downloads don't work properly either. Credit where it's due, though - the system for declaring and paying tax etc on line is very good here.
I have on many occasions reverted to buy from the UK and had the items sent to France. It is not something I want to do, but there does not appear any option. Interestingly and not surprising global suppliers, like Amazon, Apple, Nestle have comprehensive and similar look and feel with good transactional capabilities, many French sites could do well to learn from these.