Vive l’Internet! France invests in universal high-speed broadband

French president François Hollande has just issued a massive challenge to get high-speed Internet access to every home in France within the next three to 10 years.

In a talk on “the ambition [of] digital France and its willingness to develop very high speed [Internet access] throughout” the country, Hollande told citizens this initiative will cost the equivalent of $26.3 billion, which will come from a mix of public and private-sector sources.

The necessary investments will be coordinated by a governmental group set up specifically for that purpose. Telecommunications firms may face a relatively small tax to help fund the project.

The bulk of the job — including half of France’s homes and infrastructure in densely populated areas — costs $9.2 billion and should be finished by late 2014.

As recently as 2007, France outstripped the U.S. in terms of high-speed Internet infrastructure. And as of 2009, France was the second-largest ADSL (asymmetric digital subscriber line) market in Europe.

Increasing the availability and speed of Internet access has been a priority for many governments around the world. Leading up to the U.S. presidential election last fall, our own President Barack Obama told Americans, “Building a nationwide broadband network will strengthen our economy and put more Americans back to work. … By connecting every corner of our country to the digital age, we can help our businesses become more competitive, our students become more informed, and our citizens become more engaged.”

Job creation and business competition were two key points in Hollande’s presentation as well.