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10 Days and Counting October 5, 2007

Posted by gordonwatts in computers, life.

My wife walked into an Orange store today and walked about 30 minutes later with a DSL modem. The claim was we’d have a working phone line in two days and Internet in less than 10 days.

We’ll see. Unfortunately, Free (as in Free sucks) may still prevent this as they may decide to hold onto our line or not release some database lock, or something, and prevent Orange from getting at it.

To truly appreciate what we have just done you have to understand a little be about France, Orange, and Free. In the USA we had Ma Bell. A total monopoly — ran all our local lines. Here in France, the moral equivalent is FranceTelecom (or FT for short). As far as I can tell, they still hold an effective monopoly over local service. Every single wire that goes to every single home goes through their exchanges. FT owns Orange.

A few years ago France passed a law that said that FT must share their lines with other providers. I think this may apply only for DSL service and not voice, but I’m not 100% sure – it certainly does for Internet service. Hence was born companies like Free (and a few others). These companies, of course, must go through FT to get their service to the home.

Now, I’m positive that FT doesn’t make as much money on someone that connects up through Free as they do someone that connects up through their own Orange service. So just imagine the following: some time ago Free sees they are running out of slots for new subscribers in my region of Marseille. So they send a request to FT to create a new group of slots so they can keep up with demand. But FT drags their feet and takes forever to complete the request. As a result, Free runs out of space and this puts a bunch of subscribers (like myself) in limbo. What do these pissed off subscribers do? They cancel with Free and run right into the arms of the other big Internet service provider in town: Orange. Perrrrfect. Of course, you can also blame Free here (as we’ve chosen to do): they should have known it would take FT a long time and should have ordered their slots with enough lead time to not run out!

I’ve been reading about this new WiMax stuff that is coming – sounds like a test run on the Chicago river gave upload/download speeds better than that of a high quality DSL line and much faster than the crazy-expensive cell phone plans like Verizon’s EVDO. Seattle now has ClearWire – which is wireless into your home. When we return to Seattle we are going to investigate these non-wire options. Dealing with these uncomfortable business relationships and ancient wired technology seems to be a recipe for problems. Of course, if it is all that functions…



1. Kevin - October 5, 2007

Don’t you find it funny when you read stories about how much more pervasive high-speed internet is in Europe than in the US? I guess it’s just that much easier to get online in Germany and the UK.

For what it’s worth, during my 2.5 years in France we had Noos cable, and the service was never interrupted and the speed was better than DSL. Having TV was a key piece of being able to learn French–especially watching French movies with French subtitles, it was almost easy.

2. gordonwatts - October 5, 2007

Indeed — in the Free order we had we would have gotten some french TV (movies, archived shows). I think with the Orange you have to pay extra (and it is already more than the base Free price). I agree — but at this point getting any data into our house became top priority.

Also, none of my friends seem to have cable here. So I guess I didn’t even think of it!

3. Kevin - October 5, 2007

Yeah, they thought I was strange with cable, but they whined all day about their DSL.

Actually, one thing that I think is very different now that we have pervasive internet is that I often felt like I was not always living in a foreign country. I felt more foreign during the week or two we had no internet and I had to go to the newsstand and get the IHT. Oh well, I can read Le Monde in my office in Michigan now, so I guess it’s just perspective.

Good luck with Orange…

4. gordonwatts - October 5, 2007

That is an excellent point — not having internet does mean I interact with people outside more than I might otherwise… I even have a bit of a tan right now… 😉

5. Why I Like Microsoft « Life as a Physicist - October 8, 2007

[…] arrived today at about 10am! It took them 4 days, two of them weekend days! Holy cow! That is why a monopoly is so […]

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