“One man’s struggle to get the internet in Brittany”
In Britain, we generally take the internet for granted, and there are many suppliers to feed our wi-fi addiction who are all in competition with each other.
However, in France, there is in reality only one main provider for decent internet usage:- The French version of Orange.Orange.fr is the French equivalent of our “BT” and my understanding is that they won the contract with the French authorities after promising fair prices and an excellent service – putting any potential competitors very much in the shade.
Orange.fr offers a “dedicated English speaking help-line service” to potential British customers living in France, which I decided to try whilst I was still in the UK.
After being serenaded by some of the most appalling music, punctuated by short apologetic messages, I was put through to an over enthusiastic operator based in Paris, who assured me that she could help me get online.
Unfortunately she couldn’t and didn’t.
There was apparently a fault on the line that couldn’t be resolved until we were next in France and able to let the engineer into the house.
When the engineer arrived, he quickly decided that the fault was beyond him, but promised to return the following Friday.
On the appointed Friday, we stayed in all day, but no engineer arrived, and as we were due to return to the UK the following day, nothing else could be done.
A few days later I received a call from the English-speaking-operator from Paris who said she had news:-
“It’s repaired! It’s all done!” She said
“How can this be?” I asked “The house in France is locked, we are here in England so an engineer cannot possibly have attended”
“No, it’s been repaired, I have it here on my screen”
“It’s impossible” said I “There is a box on the wall with all the wires hanging out, which is how the engineer left it”
She said “As far as we are concerned it is repaired, and that’s that. If the internet is not working for you then you need an engineer to help you get on line, but you will be charged”
I could feel my blood pressure rise as I realised that she was in the process of closing off my case, and thereby reducing her quota of outstanding issues and meeting her set target.
“Well thank you for nothing” said I.
When we returned to France, as expected, no progress had been made whatsoever, so out of desperation we visited the Orange shop in Lannion.
Now, bear in mind that realistically Orange is the only internet provider in France, and also has the responsibility of the cabling installations, telephone lines etc. so they are in high demand. As you enter the Orange shop in Lannion you are confronted by a sort of welcome concierge, who is there to identify your problem and then refer you to the right department.
Once you have queued up, and then told the “concierge” your problem or issue, you are then directed to a seating area where there is an electronic board showing the names of all of the people who are waiting for attention. Your name moves up the ladder until you are finally dealt with. Our assistant was a helpful guy called Alex who promised he would organise an engineer and also provide us with a Livebox there and then, the Livebox being, I suppose, the rough equivalent of a Sky box in the UK.
So with the Livebox under one arm, we left the Orange shop feeling a little more positive, and indeed I received an email from Alex, giving the dates of the engineers visit and also to advise that sadly he was relocating to another store.
Two engineers arrived on the appointed date and after a couple of days, the LED lights on the Livebox looked promising but still no internet.
So back off to the Orange store we went, and spent precious time making another shop assistant understand our plight.
It sort of went like this:-
“We still have no internet or French phone connection”
“That is because you haven’t paid”
“We couldn’t pay because there was nothing to pay for, we had no internet!”
“Well you need to pay now”
At this stage I thought I was in the middle of a Monty Python sketch.
“Okay we’ll pay now! How much is it and do you take Visa?”
“No, you can’t pay here, you must pay online”
“But we haven’t any internet!!!”
“Then you must pay by phone”
“French phone?” we queried
“Yes” countered the assistant
“But the French phone is part of the internet package, we have no internet!”
“Do you have friends in France that have a French phone?”
“Then you must pay by the internet” said the assistant.
At this stage, my blood pressure was up by a few more notches and I was in severe danger of breaking out into a Basil Fawlty style rage.
“We want to pay by the internet, but we have no internet, please Help!!”
The assistant seemed to finally understand, and after making a phone call, presented us with a special Dongle , with two months free credit, with which, he explained we could get online in France to access our account.
We left the Orange shop feeling mildly more positive but not quite breaking out the bubbly.
So as it stands at the moment, we are waiting for our sign in details and our pass code. But we do have a pretty box which has so far racked up 160 Euros in charges, which we will dispute when we finally get on the bloody internet.
Watch out for further news….
We have further News!
A couple of days later I received an email from Orange.fr which after translation revealed that they were going to waive the € 164.07 on my account and that the internet was working. Which it did, for one day, and then the flashing red light returned signalling no internet again.
Off I went again to the Orange shop in Lannion where after much translating from English to French using the Ipad, they finally understood my plight. They promised that an engineer would arrive the next day, which he did!
The very next, as promised, the engineer came, and finally…..
We have internet!!!!
So What’s to be learned from all this?
Well I now wish that I hadn’t tried to organise this from England in the first place because you are at that stage very dependant on which person is on the other end of the help line, and in my case it was a lady who wanted to talk (My Goodness she wanted to talk) and not listen. I am sure that many others have successfully organised their internet from the UK but it didn’t work for me.
I should have gone to the Orange shop in Brittany in the first place, and taken it from there. They have free wi-fi in their store, so I could have used the Ipad and Google’s “Translate” which isn’t always accurate but generally get’s the job done. If you are lucky you may find an assistant who can speak a little English. I can almost hear critics out there who are exclaiming “But you should be able to speak French if you are living in France” and they would be correct. However I don’t, yet…
So now the only thing I am still waiting for are my account details so I can access my account and make payments etc. They point-blank refuse to tell you in person or by email, instead they insist on sending it by ordinary snail mail.
What is the internet like in France?
At the risk of sounding ungrateful, if you are out in the sticks, the internet is not brilliant. It comes and goes. One minute you can log on to anything immediately, and the next you are staring at the screen wondering if the connection has been lost altogether. It is reminiscent of a time many years ago when the internet first began and you waited patiently for a basic picture to gradually appear on your computer screen.
However it’s generally enough to work with, and I can get Netflix on the television although sometimes the images lose a bit of clarity.
Once Orange finally got going, I have to say their customer focus was good and their email aftercare efficient. Orange seems to be the only internet provider worth having in France. I understand that they have competition in Paris and other highly populated area’s, but here in Brittany, our only real option is Orange. I hope they shine brighter in the future.