Macron demands French telcos roll out fast broadband

PARIS - President Emmanuel Macron urged telecoms operators on Monday to roll out high-speed broadband across France by the end of 2020, two years earlier than a previous target.

Macron said in a speech at a conference at the senate that the government would unveil a new system of incentives and penalties for telecom operators by the end of the year.

Part of his promised 50 billion euro (S$78.9 billion) investment plan would be allocated for areas where building networks would not be viable for private companies, he added.

Orange, formerly the state-owned monopoly France Telecom, has invested heavily in developing a "fibre to the home" (FTTH) network, becoming the market leader.

But rivals SFR Group and Iliad have also entered the race and are spending billions building their own fibre networks.

In the same speech, Macron said local authorities would be asked to make 13 billion euros in savings over the next five years - more than the 10 billion euros he initially planned.

An official audit in July found public finances were billions over budget, leaving the government scrambling to come up with savings needed to cut the public deficit to 3 per cent of economic output and meet a European Union cap for the first time in a decade.