ALL OF France now has Broadband internet (haut débit) access according to the government - about 95% over the phone line via ADSL, a few pockets by satellite.
This allows speeds of around 4mbits/s downstream (internet to computer) and 1mbit/s when uploading, though speeds slow down the further you are from a telephone exchange.
The challenge now is to gear up for superfast broadband (très haut débit) with downstream speeds of 100mbits/s, and almost no loss of speed. Only 12% have access, though the target is 57% by 2020, 100% by 2025.
Making it available in some rural areas is expected to involve partnerships between internet providers and councils, as in Pau, Pyrénées-Atlantiques, where three-quarters of homes have access.
Superfast broadband - as yet mainly accessible in city flats, but expanding to other areas - uses fibre-optic cables rather than the telephone line. Connection involves linking up your street, then your building, then your flat (the operators are working on solutions for detached houses).
For those with triple-play packages (internet, digital television and landline telephone) a big plus is the ability to use all three together without any loss of quality.
Note however that the speed arriving could be halved if you use wifi (wireless transmission) in the house to send the signal to other rooms. It is preferable to use a long ethernet cable or power line communication - in French courant porteur en ligne (CPL) - using the home’s electricity network to carry the signal. This is said to be notably the case with Numéricable, especially if several homes share a cable, as its system does not take fibre-optic right into your home, but uses copper lines from the inside of a building to individual flats.
Numéricable is the best known fibre-optic operator, however the main French telecoms firms all offer it.
One firm will have connected up your building, but in theory it must allow the others to use the network. In practice this is not always possible - a bone of contention. This obligation does not apply to buildings connected by Numéricable, which uses a unique kind of technology.
If you choose to have superfast broadband, a technician must put in a line into your flat, with a special plug.
Offers cost on average 20% more than ADSL.
Factors to compare include upload speed (débit montant), from 5mbits/s at Darty, Bouygues and Numéricable to 50mb/s at Free and SFR (100mbits/s as an option at Orange), minimum contract periods (none to a year), whether there is a charge for opening a line or for migrating from ADSL, which countries you can call free and number of television channels.