Monday, September 29, 2008

Broadband subscriptions = 2, Internet connections = 0 / Abonnements a l’Internet à haute vitesse = 2, Connexions a l’Internet = 0

I've been trying to post all weekend but neither of my two Internet connections is working. I subscribe to both DSL and cable to ensure that this doesn't happen but both connections have been out for days.

  • Cable via Numericable: Our cable connection at home works less than 50% of of the time. It's a 30 Mbps connection so it's fast for buying iTunes content when it is working. It's so unreliable though that I keep the computers connected to the stable but slow DSL instead. Over the past few days uptime has been less than 5%. Numericable ran a number of tests (while I paid for a EUR 20 mobile call to tech support) and they'll send someone to check it next Saturday.

  • DSL via This is the real disappointment in terms of customer service. We use this line (essentially 1 Mbps) for almost everything because it has been reliable. It is our main fixed line telephone as well. The modem stopped synching on September 24th at around midnight. Free said they couldn't send someone to check it until October 7th - nearly 2 weeks later. That means our fixed line phone is down until then. The last time this happened our connection was out for 3 weeks because of a problem at the DSLAM.

Broadband operators really need to be better than this. We rely on these connections too much to have them stop working for weeks at a time. It makes me nervous to be a dark fiber provider which partners with an ISP because I don't want the residents coming and throwing their modems through my windows if their phones stop working for three weeks.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Preparing to meet with the Mayor's cabinet / La préparation pour une réunion avec les Maires-Adjoints

I called the office of our Mayor (Manuelle WAJSBLAT) last week to ask for an appointment to speak with her about fiber. There are a couple of things I wanted to talk about.
  1. The status of France Telecom's upgrade of our exchange
  2. The need for a small space next to the exchange (which the village owns) for fiber termination equipment
  3. The plan eventually to extend our network to other residences
  4. Coordinating fiber planning with any civil work in the village
Her office called me back to set up a meeting for today with the heads of two municipal commisssions (les maires-adjoints).

  • Bruno DIDIER
    Urbanisme, Environnement, Développement économique, Transports, Sécurité
    (Urbanism, environment, economic development, transportation and security)

  • Philippe CHIVOT
    Travaux, Entretien du Patrimoine, Marchés Publics, Ordures Ménagères
    (Work, maintaining historical elements, public works and trash collection)

Before the meeting I spoke with a friend of mine who had a similar post in another city government and he gave me some key things to focus on for the discussions. He told me how it is important to focus on the benefits to everyone involved - the users, the businesses and even the political leaders.

I realized as I was going through my speaking points that there are some huge benefits for a village with fiber. First, it will add value to our homes at a time when people are worried that their house values are falling. We'd also move from having some of the worst connections in our department to having the best. We could also take advantage of the regional network backbone investments put in place by our department which have been, so far, underutilized. Finally, symmetric connections for telecommuting could help ease traffic congestion, improve business traffic for local merchants and help the environment. Those are some big social benefits.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Residence Picnic / Pique-nique de la residence

Today was the annual residence picnic with our neighbors. We were excited to go to get to know people better and also to talk a bit about the fiber project. Turnout was good from the stand-alone homes but I didn't get to meet anyone new from the apartments. FTTH handout for the residence

I prepared a handout in French (PDF here) to give to each family telling them the status of the project and the next steps. There was overwhelming support from the people I spoke with.

The status report lays out the two main steps of the project:

  1. Installing fibre to each house/apartment in the residence
  2. Obtaining a connection between our residence and the local exchange

I also explained the four things I'm going to need from the residents:

  1. A place to install an ODF or manhole for aggregating the connections
  2. Access to the existing conduit in the residence
  3. One-time access to their garage to install/terminate the fibre.
  4. An idea of how many homes would be willing to change providers to fibre once we attracted an operator

Item #4 actually got me the most questions. People wanted to know whether we would all have to subscribe to the same operator or if they would have a choice among operators when switching to fiber. I had to answer that we'd likely start with one operator but that the plan is to offer the fiber lines to any operator willing to connect with us. My goal is for households to be able to choose from a number of different fiber providers using the same line but we probably will need a larger (i.e. expanded) subscriber base before multiple providers would be willing to participate. That means initially it would probably be a "first-in takes all" scenario.

The update letter explained that we would probably need 80% of homes committing to switch if we wanted to attract an operator to build out to us. Otherwise, we'd likely have to pay ourselves to build back to the exchange in step 2.

One of the residents suggested I organize a meeting to answer questions. It wouldn't be an official meeting of the residence but rather something informal where they could ask questions. I think it's a good idea and I'll set it up.

Two steps behind - Deux pas derrière

Talk about missed opportunities. This is the residence just next to ours which dug up their sidewalks this week - without putting in any new fiber or conduit. It is really too bad we are not better coordinated in our village because this is one of the next two residences I wanted to target for expansion of our own network.

Neighboring residence - sidewalk work without fibre

They do have existing conduit which we could probably use but this would have been an opportune time to put in a telecommunication chamber (hand hold) as well.

I'm going to try and schedule a meeting with the mayor soon so we can get an idea when these projects are going on.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

One step behind - Un pas derrière

I walked past the spot of my preferred aggregation point this morning on the way to work and saw workers getting ready to redo the surface of the parking area. It's too bad I didn't know about it because it would have been an excellent time to drop in the box.
Repaving - without our box

It's not too bad though because I still don't know who owns that particular parking spot I wanted to use and whether they would have let me put the box there. Also, I started wondering how I would be able to tap into France Telecom's box which was in the middle of the public street. It may be better for me to simply move one "hop" back onto onto the communal property and put the box there.

Still, it highlights one of the difficulties of planning a network like this. It is difficult to coordinate work.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Perfect aggregation point? Or not. - Un point d'agrégation parfait? Ou pas.

I probably made a number of neighbors nervous yesterday walking around with my map and GPS in hand trying to locate hand holes in their property from the sidewalk. However, the exercise helped me decide on the area were I think it would be best to place the aggregation point. I found it at the bottom of the residence, right next to the small shops and across the street from the France Telecom trunk conduit. initially looked for a place to install an ODF because it allows faster access to the connections and seems to be easier to add connections if we expand outside our residence. I was interested in an ODF from Pacific Interconnections, LLC in the US (see photo). However, I quickly realized I'd take a big risk putting an outdoor ODF in an area of the residence which has lots of delivery trucks.

I'm probably more sensitive to trucks backing up in the residence because we came home from vacation this year and someone had backed into our car parked on the street. The paint from the vehicule that hit us was green and high up on the car - leaving the police to assume it was a rather large truck. The damage to our car was expensive to fix but nothing like trying to repair a damaged ODF. That's why I think it may be better to have a splice enclosure in a hand hole in the street.

As I mentioned in my last post, I think the best place would be next to hand hole 021 on my distance map. I took pictures of the spot this weekend (see below).

Possible aggregation point - in parking by silver car The road with the existing France Telecom boxes (shown to the left) belongs to the village, not our residence. That means it would be much more complicated to get permission to dig and install our own boxes. However, the land with the cars parked on it is part of the residence. This parking area is in fairly desperate need of a renovation and would be an excellent spot to pass off the residence connections into France Telecom's own conduit. Possible hand hole spot, on left in front of silver car

The nice thing about the hand hole in the two pictures is that it's one "hop" away from the main conduit which goes down 330 meters to the exchange. I would like to put our hand hole in front of the silver parked car in the picture.

The only catch is the parking spots are actually owned by individual tenants in the residence, not communally. That means I'd need to get permission of the owner to put in the box. I'm not quite sure how or if that would work.

The residence DOES own the road in front of the white garages (in the middle-left picture) if the parking spot doesn't work out. There are two FT hand holes there as well which could provide easy access. In that case I'd look at putting the hand hole next to waypoint number 020.

Finally, I inserted another waypoint out at the exchange to do the calculations for Part 2 of the project, going from the residence to the exchange (see below).

Distance calculations - residence to the exchange

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Topology and layout ideas / Idées pour la topologie

I had lunch with Vincent MONVILLE again this week and we talked about some of the fiber details of the project. I was interested in his estimate of installation costs (to see if I've set aside enough) but he explained that first I had to decide exactly how I was going to distribute and split off each connection. Only then would it be possible to get a better grasp on the prices.

He was right so I took out my trusty Garmin GPS III Plus and marked all the handholes specified in the France Telecom map. That allowed me to get a pretty good estimate of the distances from each handhole back to the main aggregation point for telephone lines in our residence.

Handhole distance from aggregation point

Here are the numbers I came out with.

  • Total length of all fiber pair segments to the handhole (handhole to aggregation point): 3934 meters
  • Total length of all fiber pair segments to the house (generous estimate of home/apt to aggregation point): 4719 meters
  • Average loop length to handhole: 79 meters
  • Longest loop length to handhole: 220 meters
  • Shortest loop length to handhole: 19 meters

  • Best aggregation point: In the street next to waypoint #021
Distance from each house to aggregation point

I figure the best way to distribute the 50 lines is using some sort of microconduit within the existing conduit in the street. That way the line would be protected at the split-off points. I'm not sure though so any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

UTOPIA Speed Update / UTOPIA Nouvel essai de vitesse

In July I posted about the slow speeds I found when testing a UTOPIA connection. Ben, one of the roommates in the house, wrote and said the slow result was likely the due to the groom's slow computer which I used to run the test.

Ben kindly ran a new speed test using his computer and Google's new Chrome browser (which gave better results than both IE and Firefox). His new results are much better and show the line is producing high speeds.


I was impressed with the high upload speed, particularly because it was better than the download side.

Next Steps: Business formation / Etapes prochaines: formation de l'entreprise

  1. Get an attestation of the original funds blocked in the bank (completed)

    The bank sent me an attestation today which shows that I put EUR 1000 into an escrow-type account for setting up the business. I need this to move forward with the business registration and it's called a:


    It essentially says that the bank has the money and a copy of the statuts of the business.

  2. Registering the business information with the tax authority

    Now that I have the attestation showing the funds are blocked away the next step is submitting the business registration to the tax authority. They need a copy of the "Status" of the business. This is an 18 page document that my friend (an attorney here in France) helped me prepare. It describes the nature of the business and sets up the framework of the business.

    They put a stamp on the original statuts when I register them.

  3. Register with the Chamber of Commerce and Industry

    The next step (as I understand it) is taking the information to the Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Once they have the necessary documents they give me the business license, called a "Kbis" here.

  4. Return to the bank with the stamped "statuts" and the Kbis to create a real bank account

    Once I have both the Kbis and the stamped statuts I can open up a real bank account and start doing business.

Now, I'm no lawyer and I'm still a bit in the dark about how this registration system works. I'll update this page if I have any new (or improved) information though.

There is one thing I do plan on doing to learn more about the process. The Versailles Chamber of Commerce and Industry has a free seminar once every month where people starting businesses can go and learn about setting up a business in our area. I plan on attending the one on October 14th if possible.