French President Nicolas Sarkozy loves himself some broadband—as long as no one is trading copyrighted files—and he has just announced a government investment initiative designed to bring 100Mbps Internet to most French citizens in the next decade.
Sarkozy wants to pump nearly US$7 billion into development of national broadband networks, with the money to be raised from a bond issue called the grand emprunt ("big loan"). The emprunt is a stimulus plan designed to boost the French economy as it pulls out of the worldwide economic crisis. Most of the money will be raised through a bond issue, but the rest will come from large institutions (think: banks) that were bailed out by the French government over the last year and are now repaying their debts.
Other countries like Spain and Finland are aiming for a national baseline of 1Mbps to all households over the next year or two; France wants faster speeds, but over a longer timeframe. And 100Mbps, while it sounds fast now, won't be particularly quick in a decade. The good news, though, is that the only way to reach such speeds in France is probably through fiber (Europe not generally having a real robust cable infrastructure), and fiber is easily capable of speed upgrades.
Governments across the world are now explicitly recognizing the value of broadband as a public utility that should be available to all citizens. Spain and Finland are using a "universal service" funding model to subsidize more expensive locations, while countries like Australia are taking a "we'll build it ourselves" approach to a national fiber backbone. The UK is encouraging incumbent last-mile operator OpenReach to roll out "open access" fiber. As for the US, the government has done little to date apart from funding some school and library Internet access, though that may change at least a bit when the first National Broadband Plan is rolled out early in 2010.
Source: ars technica