Thursday, June 7, 2007

Brainstorming with Laurent / Brainstorming avec Laurent

One of the best people I've found to bounce ideas off of is Laurent at work. He's French, very smart, and someone who calls it like he sees it. He's also been such a wonderful resource in how to maneuver through the French bureaucracy. Laurent is the one who pointed me in the direction of speaking with the mayor and then the conseil général.

At the end of lunch today Laurent took a few minutes to sit down with me and go over the meeting with the mayor and the best way to proceed from here. He had many of the same feelings initially that the mayor repeated. Networks can be difficult beasts - even for engineers and I'm just an economist.

I found that putting together my arguments for Laurent helped me solidify some of the elements of the project myself in my head. He posed some pretty tricky questions about how I'm going to bring in Internet connectivity to reach the fiber network and I struggled to come up with answers.

One of his key points is that the small number of homes just isn't going to be attractive enough to competitive operators (such as Free) for them to come in and install their own equipment in our "residence". I think Laurent probably has a very good point here. However, I'm looking through the papers from the residence again on the train ride home and there are a totally of 26 homes and 24 apartments we could connect easily. That means 50 households in one swoop for a provider - particularly if there is just who chooses to take us up on the offer to come in.

I figure that 50 units would be comparable to a large apartment building and that could be seen as very attractive to an operator. That works out to EUR 1,500 a month (EUR 18,000 per year) in revenue at EUR 30 per household for broadband (the going rate in France). Assuming that EUR 10 per customer went to paying for and maintaining the local network there would still be EUR 12,000 per year of revenue left for the operator. I'll have to calculate how much their equipment and backhaul costs would be to get to but I think we'd be able to make a good case.

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