High-speed broadband for everyone

RegioStars 2010 WinnerThe project sought to bridge the digital divide between urban and rural areas by bringing high-speed broadband access to sparsely populated communities lacking affordable and efficient Internet access. Today, 100% of households in the Auvergne region are eligible, with a free choice of providers. An average of 40% of households in so-called white areas have already signed up for broadband access, a rate close to the national average.

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Connecting via high-speed broadband access from a rural location. Copyright: European Commission Connecting via high-speed broadband access from a rural location. Copyright: European Commission

“Anyone living in the region is now free to shop around for a high-speed Internet provider, at the same price rates as elsewhere in the country.”
Sophie Rognon, project manager and director of ICT and information systems, Auvergne regional government

Together, the Auvergne Regional Council and the four concerned departments developed a global strategy for bringing high-speed broadband to all households, especially in rural areas. Besides improving the quality of life for private citizens, the project has boosted economic competitiveness, by for example making it easier for entrepreneurs to start and operate a business or for independent nurses to file their documentation online and thus reimburse patients more quickly.

No stone left unturned

To ensure 100% broadband coverage, organisers set out to connect all households to an asymmetric digital subscriber line (ADSL), a communication technology that allows data transmission over copper telephone lines much faster than conventional voice lines. Some 99.6% of lines in Auvergne are now eligible for high-speed broadband through DSL technology, while the other 0.4% have a satellite option.

Knowledge is power

High-speed broadband access is a key factor in regions’ economic competitiveness, keeping the current population from moving away as well as attracting new residents and businesses. In fact, people often investigate ADSL broadband access in an area when deciding whether to relocate.

This marked the first French public-private partnership in the telecommunications field, involving the Auvergne region and the departments of Allier, Puy-de-Dôme, Cantal and Haute-Loire on the one hand and France Télécom on the other.

France Télécom’s offer was deemed to be the most advantageous, in terms of technical value, work quality and cost. In 2007, the telecommunications company had implemented its own “High-Speed Broadband Plan for Everyone” for the Auvergne region, which nevertheless left a substantial number of communities with zero or partial coverage. This project sought to give 100% coverage, targeting white areas that had been left behind.

Having achieved all its objectives, the project has inspired the development of very-high speed broadband in strategic areas like business parks and public buildings, as well as a fibre-optic telecommunications network for private homes.

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