Thursday, June 7, 2007

Speaking with our mayor / Reunion avec notre maire

Today I met with the mayor of our village, Jean-Pierre GAUGENOT. I got lucky on two counts. First, he's an "informatician" (IT person) and second, he speaks English extremely well. That allowed me to jump into English when there were things I was having difficulty explaining.

It turns out he has a meeting with France Telecom scheduled for June 12th to discuss the future of their exchange in St Nom La Breteche (St Nom). I guess the municipality owns the land where it is currently located and France Telecom wants more land to expand. They've promised that they'll increase the size of the exchange (it's just for business connections now) and will give everyone in the village access to 8 Mbit/s connections with it. I quickly jumped in to say that wasn't enough.

He knew a lot about the fiber optic network from Yvelines Numeriques that passes by the town and said that he had given them the permission to build through. He wasn't sure that there was actually anyone using the network though. He mentioned that he would suggest they simply sell the network off to a private company. I figure there's little chance of that happening.

He bought up some very good points during our discussion that I'm going to have to eventually deal with.

  1. A private individual or even a "residence" isn't going to be able to get a permit to cross a city street. I'd have to start a small company in order to even apply. He made it seem as if that may not be very easy.
  2. There would be issues about who would be responsible for maintaining the network after it was built. He had concerns that it would be difficult to support when there were problems. I agreed and figuring out how to fix problems with the network when they pop up will be a key element of getting this off the ground.
  3. He also suggested that pushing changes here in our village isn't easy. He said that the people love the way St Nom is right now and the best municipal projects are the ones that don't change anything.

It's a bit difficult for me to judge his reaction from the meeting. By the end of the meeting though he seemed interested in the idea and offered several good suggestions on how to proceed. I took that as a good sign.

  1. He suggested that I try and partner with a big telecom provider to form a pilot FTTH project. He suggested contacting competitive operators to see if they'd be willing to help with the project as a model for future rollouts. I actually think that could be a good idea, particularly if I have to maneuver through a lot of red tape. I'm going to contact a few operators directly and ask them what they think.
  2. He suggested that I write a letter to our "Conseiller Général", Colette LE MOAL. She is the elected person over our larger region and is influential in the Departement. He recommended I spell out the project to her, telling her I'd already discussed it with him. He said they were good friends I can see how that could help. He mentioned that she may have someone better to recommend as the contact for our project at her level.
I'll go ahead with his ideas and try and move this forward quickly. I'd like to have a letter ready for Ms. LE MOAL before his meeting with France Telecom as well.

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