The switch to copper and the maintenance of a quality of service worthy of the name in areas still dependent on this aging infrastructure continues to focus the attention of authorities and operators. While the government had promised the first arbitrations in this burning issue for rural territories in early March, they are still pending.
The situation is however critical in a certain number of territories – such as Corsica, Drôme, Pays de la Loire or Ardèche – where the deployment of fiber is still only a mirage, and which depend essentially on a copper network in poor condition for their connectivity. This prompted elected officials from these communities last December to sign a platform to deplore the lack of maintenance of the network by Orange – the universal service delegate – as well as the fact “that the opening of a line takes more than six months, and repair weeks ”, while the operator is“ supposed to intervene within 48 hours ”.
“The situation is now becoming intolerable on the ground, where we are seeing an acceleration in the lack of maintenance and the degradation of infrastructure, which led us to sign a platform at the end of the universal service agreement in December last ”, deplored this Thursday the LREM deputy of Drôme, Célia de Lavergne, at the origin of a flash mission on this subject.
A new copper plan to come
Asked on the sidelines of a conference held under the aegis of Arcep, it recalls that there are “today hamlets where many elderly people depend on the copper network for their remote monitoring systems”, qualifying the maintenance of an optimal quality of service on the “health emergency” copper network. Before concluding that “there is both a feeling of abandonment and endangering the lives of others because we have here a real subject of public security urgency.”
Orange is defending itself – through the voice of its secretary general Nicolas Guérin – from any “abandonment of the copper network”. The incumbent operator ensures that it will initiate a plan to “revive” the copper network in the departments which are still the most dependent on it – and those most affected by technical failures. “We do have a problem, but we will announce in the coming days a very ambitious, massive copper plan, with new resources, which will only be financed by Orange,” the leader said on Thursday.
Pending the announcement of this plan, he also asked the annoying question: that of the future financing of the maintenance of the copper network, to which Orange devotes 500 million euros each year. “The question we ask is how, collectively, we maintain this copper network and we bear the costs”, he did not fail to question.
Arcep relies on pedagogy
The Secretary of State for Digital Cédric O also assures to have with the incumbent operator “a certain number of discussions so that the quality of the copper network is maintained until the end, so that the French who still depend on it can benefit optimum quality of service and a form of universal service, until another solution is found ”. “I hope that we will be able to make progress in the days to come on this issue of quality of service,” he explains.
For its part, Arcep wishes to “vouch for the closure of the copper network” by focusing on dialogue, but also on better information provided to the general public via its “My Internet Connection” tool, the final version of which has just been released. be put online. This mapping tool allows its users to know all the networks (wired or wireless) and operators available in their region, as well as the speeds to which they can claim.
A way for the regulator to once again put forward its regulatory strategy through data initiated by the predecessor of its new president Laure de La Raudière, Sébastien Soriano. The fact remains that this mode of regulation will not be enough and that the tone is becoming more and more firm on the side of the telecoms policeman, as Orange advances in its copper extinction project, which the incumbent wishes to have finalized by 2030. It remains to be seen what Orange’s response will be to this new offensive by the authorities on the burning issue of the copper tipping point.