As part of a €35 billion (US $49.45 billion) loan program that is focused on improvements to national infrastructure, French Prime Minister Francois Fillon confirmed Monday that his government will earmark €2 billion (US $2.88 billion) in low-interest loans for the development of high-speed fiber-optic (FTTX) networks outside of France’s major metropolitan areas. Although most French citizens have access to high-speed Internet services, deployment of FTTX broadband networks by the nation’s top three Internet service providers—France Telecom (FT), SFR and Iliad—has been limited thus far to Paris and to other major population centers. Sources also indicate that, while 11% of French households have access to FTTX, few have subscribed to such services. Declaring, “we are at the dawn of the era of high-speed Internet and fiber-optic networks,” Fillon termed it “unacceptable” that “500,000 French people don’t have access to high speed Internet at all.” To boost FTTX deployment in rural and underserved areas, Fillon said the government would award funding on a project-by-project basis while encouraging FT, SFR, and Iliad to invest together in FTTX infrastructure to ensure that no single operator gains monopoly status in any given area. Fillon also disclosed that the government plans to build and launch a satellite within the next few years that would extend high-speed Internet services to remote regions in France. Addressing the issue of lackluster uptake, Fillon also urged the nation’s operators to develop low-cost FTTX services for low-income households that cost no more than €20 per month. (Currently, monthly rates for high-speed services average €30.) In all, the government intends to make available €4.5 billion in funds for information and communications projects that include FTTX network development.