Following a proposal to assist the development of broadband internet access in economically weak regions, the government will allow local authorities to roll out telecommunications networks and function as telecommunications operators.

Local authorities were given the go-ahead to act as telecommunications operators, by a decision of the Comité Interministériel d'Aménagement et de Développement du Territoire, a cross-ministerial committee for planning and development in French territories, on December 13 2002.

This decision embraces the recommendations made by the French Telecommunications Regulatory Authority in July last year.

The committee noted that investment from sole operators is not sufficient to permit broadband to be rolled out across a significant area of the country. Further, local authorities have shown a growing willingness to take the initiative.

A bill must be drafted to amend French regulations which forbid public bodies (eg, town or metropolitan councils, general or regional councils, or even urban communities) from acting as telecommunications operators. The public bank Caisse des Dépôts et Consignations has been appointed to determine a regional estimate of the cost of studies and the engineering involved to establish the relevant local infrastructure.

For further information on this topic please contact Robert Follie or Carole Arribes at Lovells by telephone (+33 1 53 67 47 47) or by fax (+33 1 53 67 47 48) or by email ([email protected] or [email protected]).