There were a number of key issues and developments:
- The new, upgraded exchange is due to be built early next year
This is a huge development and is tied to a EUR 50'000 investment by the municipality. The deal is rather complex as I understand it. France Telecom owns the land where the exchange will be built but our local government will pay for the construction of the new building/shelter. After 20 years the building will be deeded back to France Telecom.
I was never very happy with this arrangement but luckily the papers have not been officially signed and approved. This is excellent news. One of the key points of our discussion in the meeting was how to restructure elements of the deal to accommodate fiber rollouts.
- Competitive operators likely are coming
The new exchange will be built to accommodate competitive operators and from the look of it there are some who may be interested in coming with their own equipment. Obviously there are no "done deals" yet but this would be a good sign if it turns out to be correct.
Operators would install their own DSLAMs for DSL (and hopefully FTTH equipment at the same time) when the exchange opens. For the residents in my area that means DSL speeds at 400 meters, instead of 4500 meters. Others farther up and away from the exchange won't be so lucky but there is a bit of geography in our favor as well. Generally the farther you get from our exchange the more expensive the homes become. That means the most expensive lines would be installed to the most expensive houses where residents could pay more for the installation. All operators already have a fiber presence which passes through the exchange using the Yvelines Numériques backbone.
- We are all islands (private residences)
It turns out that St Nom La Bretèche is different than many other French towns because we are largely made up of islands of private residences (where the roads are owned and maintained by the residents). This set-up actually makes rolling out fiber easier because the conduit in each of these private residences belongs to the residents, not France Telecom. The challenge is linking these various islands together by crossing streets or through France Telecom's conduit - and then back down to the exchange.
We talked about ways to facilitate "bridges" (conduit) between these islands (subdivisions) and the municipal government seems very ready to help. I asked for a list of any proposed work on roads ahead of time so that we could put in manholes and conduit across streets between these "islands" whenever there was work planned.
The really good thing about the island approach is that each private residence will only have to build out to the nearest "fibered" island and not all the way back to the exchange. it will take some planning to ensure we have enough fibers passing through each residence to ensure point-to-point connections back to the exchange but it is possible.
- Ensuring the new exchange is "fiber-ready" and open to competition
As long as the village is going to be footing the bill to build the exchange for France Telecom why not insist on including space for an optical distribution frame which becomes the property of the village? That is one of the nice things about the government paying EUR 50'000 to build something for a private company. They have bargaining leverage. If France Telecom were against the idea the municipality could simply take the 50'000 and build their own public fiber exchange right next to the copper one instead.
We spent some time talking about the details of what the municipality should require in the deal and I promised to get some feedback from experts in the Netherlands. I'll post their responses.
I left the meeting very excited for the project. The next step is contacting the competitive operators (with the help of the municipality) about putting a workable fiber plan into action.