Deployment of fiber: Paris-Saclay sues Arcep before the Council of State
Qualified as “Silicon Valley à la française”, Paris-Saclay concentrates 15% of French R&D. In an area covering 27 municipalities in the departments of Essonne and Yvelines, this scientific and technological center of international dimension brings together the largest schools (Polytechnique and CentraleSupelec, among others) and research centers (CEA, CNRS, etc.).
Located 20 km from the south of Paris, this territory that we imagine to be particularly connected is experiencing serious shortcomings in the deployment of fiber. For three years now, its inhabitants and businesses “have seen their right to connection hampered by a constantly degraded fiber optic network”, explains the Paris-Saclay urban community.
Compel the policeman to play his role
After filing a complaint against X twice in the space of nine months in 2022, the intermunicipal authority decided to raise its voice by suing Arcep before the Council of State in summary proceedings. It hopes to compel the telecom policeman to finally fully play its role of regulator to compel operators to restore infrastructure.
Despite “criminally punishable and widely documented facts”, Arcep’s inability to act and obtain concrete results is causing real harm to the 318,000 inhabitants of Paris-Saclay, who are living “a real ordeal”, according to the community.
To understand this discontent, we have to go back a few years. At the end of 2011, Tutor Europ’Essonne, now a subsidiary of Altitude Infrastructure THD, was entrusted, as a delegate, with the deployment and operation of a fiber optic network on an initial perimeter of 10 municipalities which subsequently expanded.
“Despite a technical upgrade plan allowing the arrival of major commercial operators, the shortcomings of the deployment remain”, notes Grégoire de Lasteyrie, president of the Paris-Saclay urban community and mayor of Palaiseau in a letter to the Arcep dated March 30, 2022 (below). The connection rate would even have decreased over the months, with only 69% of sockets eligible for fiber as of November 15.
In addition, the opening in 2019 of the Stoc mode (subcontracting by the commercial operator) precipitated the deterioration of existing infrastructures, making both maintenance and maintaining the quality of the very high speed service complex. As a reminder, this system is to delegate to commercial operators – Orange, SFR and Bouygues Telecom in the case of Paris-Saclay – the task of connecting homes and businesses.
As we have seen in Haute-Savoie, this Stoc mode creates a governance problem. The operators’ subcontractors or even the subcontractors’ subcontractors would be the cause of damage to the installations. Paid for the line connected, they would not hesitate to force access to the connection premises, but also to carry out illegal disconnections. That is to say disconnect an existing subscriber to connect a new home to the fiber.
In the case of Paris-Saclay, the operators have made a commitment to Arcep to restore the degraded infrastructure by the summer of 2023, without however being forced to do so. “The latest findings show, however, that the difficulties, identified more than two years ago now, are still just as topical”, recalls the agglomeration indicating that the testimonies on cuts and degradations accumulate.
Break the vicious cycle
With this procedure against Arcep, Paris-Saclay intends to break the vicious circle where “commercial operators, infrastructure operators and subcontractors have blamed each other for years, under the helpless gaze of Arcep, which observes the stalemate of a situation that is simply ubiquitous”.
Not only does the agglomeration wish to obtain “the return to a quality fiber optic network for all its inhabitants, businesses and public services, but also to create a precedent which will make it possible to improve the situation of millions of French people affected by the weaknesses of the shared network throughout the territory”.
This judicialization in the world of telecoms echoes the open war between Orange and Arcep. At the end of 2022, the incumbent operator filed two appeals against the telecoms regulatory authority before the Council of State.