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الرئيسيةTop Newscase. Fiber optics: Illegal disconnects, random connections... Deployment continues but growing...

case. Fiber optics: Illegal disconnects, random connections… Deployment continues but growing source of disputes

Although the government wants to make it accessible to all by 2025, the deployment of optical fiber is a growing source of controversy. Between incompetence issues and installation errors, the causes of these hiccups are varied.

Announced with great fanfare by François Hollande 10 years ago, the deployment of fiber optics is still subject to great controversy. Today, one in two French people actually has access to the Internet, but many families still struggle to connect between technical incompetence or installation defects.

However, the government made a promise: by 2025 – the famous “French high-speed project” launched in 2013 should be completed – all French people will be able to connect to fiber optics. This ambitious project, made possible by a public-private partnership of 20 billion euros, should make it possible to set up high-speed coverage in the country.

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The end of the copper network

It is in this context that the copper network must be destroyed by 2030. The telecommunications network that first appeared in the 1970s is today considered to be less efficient, more expensive, and more energy intensive than fiber. Orange, the incumbent operator, announced last year that it had filed its service closure plan with Arcep, the regulatory body for electronic communications, postal and press distribution.

But despite this forced march, fiber access is still a problem for many French people. As stated therein Latest Activity Report Fiber accounted for nearly a quarter of referrals last year to the Electronic Communications Mediator, an independent body that resolves disputes between operators and their customers. According to the Ombudsman, 36% of his estimated 4,929 comments were issued in 2022, compared to 30% in 2021 and “only” 15% in 2019.

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Valérie Alvarez, the mediator, rightly recognizes this: “Technical problems are the first source of dispute”. Malfunctions caused by incompetence, unsafe cabinets, illegal disconnections or connection operations. “This is an observation we expected since we are talking about a network in full construction,” assesses Valerie Alvarez. This trend is unlikely to reverse in the coming years: the arbitrator expects fiber to become the number one source of telecommunications disputes from next year.

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“The goal is to connect at all costs”

Today, if the French are phasing out the copper network for fiber – from 16.3 million customers to 11.1 million customers in 2022 – the technical issues attached to the subcontract crystallize most of the problems.

In fact, the current regulatory framework allows telephone operators to hire their own subcontractors to install fiber. Most of the time, subcontractors of Orange, Free, SFR or Bouygues Telecom – or even subcontractors of subcontractors – intervene in the field. However, these operators “are only paid from the moment they manage to connect the line,” explains Valerie Alvarez. Often, the latter do not hesitate to force access to certain boxes or carry out wild cuts. “They don’t always respect the ‘rules of art’ during installation, which sometimes causes real problems”, observes the mediator.

Thus, in its “Monitoring of Complaints and Dissatisfaction” published on March 17, 2023, telecoms users’ association Afood reports that in 2022 it received seven times more complaints for fiber than for mobile phone networks. Reflection, at a time when copper network removal is fast approaching.

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