Thursday, January 10, 2008

Starting a business in France / Commencer une entreprise en France

One of my good friends is an attorney here in Paris and I asked him for some help setting up an official company. I need to work through a company in order to do digging or provide telecommunication services. He sent me a template for registering a business here in France and it has been a huge help. He has done work for telecommunication firms in the past so he kindly filled in some of the telecom-specific areas.

His recommendation is to set up the business as a "société à responsabilité limitée" or SARL. This is comparable to a "limited liability corporation" (LLC) in the US. I'll base the company out of our house to begin with.

I've heard that the process of registering a business isn't too difficult here in France but I have waited to do it because it seems a bit daunting to a non-native French speaker. Once I have the process underway I'll put together a template and make it available on the site for others. I'll keep notes of the process as well and post them so someone else could mimic this easily.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Numbericable's 100 Meg set-top box / Numericable modem de 100 Mega

I got home from work on Monday evening to find our new set-top box from Numericable. I was excited to install it and test the speeds. The television portion of the connection works just fine but the Internet does not. The modem does not assign me an IP address with DHCP. I had an external address momentarily and I was able to ping but it disappeared after a power cycle never to be seen again. I am unable to register the MAC address of the box for normal connectivity without an initial connection.

I called Numericable 4-5 times yesterday (spending roughly EUR 10) without ever getting through to support. They put you on hold at EUR 0.34 per minute and then finally tell you to call back later or the line simply disconnects after 5-6 minutes of waiting. Interestingly, EUR 10 is the addition cost per month to have this triple-play package versus a simple data connection.

The most interesting thing for me was the lack of documentation that came with the box. You have to put in the village "frequency" but there was no listing or pamphlet that came with the modem giving frequencies by zip code. Luckily I knew where to find it on the Numericable site because I'd seen it before. I was also lucky to have my backup ADSL connection to use.

Finally, I upgraded to a triple-play plan with video, data and voice but there is no RJ-11 phone jack on the set-top box and no documentation. I wonder if this means I need to keep my old modem connected somewhere else in the house to use the RJ-11 jack it had.

If I've had this much trouble setting up a simple connection I can only imagine what this must be like for people who don't work in this field.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Broadband reliability / Fiabilité de broadband

I've always assumed that one of the main drivers for fiber connections would be telework. Benoît Felten has a wonderful piece this week on Fiberevolution about how FTTH facilitates telework and how that, in turn, would have a key impact on the environment. I absolutely agree.

However, this will only happen if fiber is more reliable than current cable and DSL connections. Case in point, my cable modem connection (via Numericable) starting blinking in and out of service for a few days before losing the connection altogether. During my EUR 7 call to Numericable they tested the line and couldn't reach my modem so the problem was on their end. However, they also said they couldn't send someone out to look into the problem for at least one week. This is why I pay for both a DSL and cable connection at home. When one goes out I can quickly jump on the other.

The telecommunication world has long used statistics on the number of PSTN line faults and how long it takes operators to fix those faults once they've been notified. In the monopoly days, a week-long wait wasn't uncommon. However, now most PSTN faults are restored within 24 hours. It seems therefore that we are still be in the early stages of broadband development and operators treat residential connections as luxuries to users, rather than necessities. Until that mindset changes teleworking can't be a viable option for most users.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Slow broadband is becoming political in St Nom La Bretèche /L’Internet a haute vitesse devient plus important a St Nom La Bretèche

Happy new year.

I went out to my mailbox today and found a newsletter we receive in the village. It's called "La Parole est aux listes - Journal d'expression des groupes au Conseil Municipal de Saint-Nom-La-Bretèche". I always try to read through it and today I was happy to see some attention to the ADSL situations here in St Nom. In this issue the group "Saint Nom Tout Simplement" writes:

Suite à une demande pressante auprès du conseil municipal, Orange a obtenu l’accord d’implanter une antenne relais sur le terrain de football. Nous avions insiste pour qu’en échange et au préalable, la commune obtienne des engagements sur le déploiement de l’ADSL rapide dans la commune (3/4 des foyer sont aujourd’hui limites a 512 kbit/s). Malheureusement, cette facilite a été donnée sans obtenir de contrepartie pour l’accès a internet. Aussi, 4 mois plus tard, Orange revient très dominateur avec une proposition de couverture à 92% de la commune en ADSL rapide, moyennant une participation de la commune estimée a EUR 50k. Et c’est “maintenant ou jamais”. Le pouvoir de négociation a évidemment changé de coté. Quant on réalise que la seule alternative a l’internet 512k dans notre commune, c’est Noos/Numericable…, on comprend mieux l’attitude aujourd’hui intransigeante d’Orange. Dommage!

I'll try to give a quick and dirty translation into English.

Following a request in front of the Municipal Council, Orange received permission to install a relay antenna near the football field in the village. We had insisted that in exchange for permission the commune should have obtained promises that fast ADSL would be deployed in the community (3/4 of homes in St Nom are currently limited to 512 kbit/s). Sadly, the permission was granted without any accompanying promise for Internet access Also, 4 months later, Orange has come back in a very dominant position with a proposition to cover 92% of the village with fast ADSL as long as the village covers half of the cost of the upgrade estimated to be EUR 50,000. They say it is either "now or never". The negotiation power has clearly shifted to Orange. When we realize that the only other alternative to Internet access at 512 kbit/s in our village (it's Noos/Numericable), we can more easily understand Orange's intransigence.

I was happy to see that the broadband issue has been raised to all residences in St Nom through this handout. People do want better broadband. Noos/Numericable may say they are offering 100 Mbit/s but my connection has been off and on for the past 3 days and it will cost me EUR 15 to call them to report it. I'm using my backup ADSL connection for now.

I don't know what the mayor has decided about the EUR 50,000 but I hope he hasn't paid it. They will upgrade the exchange without the money, particularly if Numericable is sweetening their offer.

More importantly, there is another option. Our fiber-to-the-home plan is only for the 50 homes in our small area of the village but we could expand to other areas fairly quickly once we get a fiber line down to the local exchange. Just the fact that we're moving ahead with a fiber plan should hopefully spur Orange into upgrading their own offering here in St Nom.

I find it interesting that for not much more than EUR 50,000, the Mayor and the Municipal Council could run an open access fiber from the telecommunication exchange at the edge of the village all the way to the Mairie. From here different "residences" could tap in and access services from competitive operators over fiber. Orange should not have the bargaining power to demand village money to upgrade their own exchange. They just need some competition.