PARIS Feb 20 France will pledge nearly 20
billion euros ($27 billion) Of public and private funds over the
next decade to speed up construction of high-speed fibre
broadband networks and spur economic growth.
Telecom operators such as France Telecom and
Vivendi have been slow to invest in such projects
because of the cost.
"High-speed broadband will strengthen the competitiveness of
our companies and the quality of our public services," President
Francois Hollande said on Wednesday in a speech outlining the
plan. "It is an opportunity to preserve and develop employment."
High unemployment and belt-tightening from companies and
consumers have brought the French economy to a standstill.
Hollande has said growth this year will fall short of his
government's 0.8 percent target, pushing deficit-cutting goals
further out of reach.
Three tranches of more than 6 billion euros each will fund
the planned network rollout, Hollande said. One will come from
network operators, one from a mix of operators and local
government and the last from state and local-government money.
Local governments' outlay will be funded using tax-free,
regulated deposits gathered by state bank Caisse des Depots.
By 2017, the end of President Hollande's first term, 50
percent of the country will be covered under the plan.
Hollande's predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy announced a similar
plan, worth 4.5 billion euros, as part of a post-crisis stimulus
package. But operators' reluctance to invest outside big cities
meant it never got off the ground.
The new plan offers a different route by allowing operators
to share rollout costs in less profitable areas.
($1 = 0.7487 euro)
(Additional reporting by Julien Ponthus and Leila Abboud;
Editing by Helen Massy-Beresford)