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The Great Fiber Odyssey of French Bureaucracy

French bureaucracy is legendary for how difficult it is to navigate. I’ve written before about the difficulties I’ve experienced simply trying to make an appointment. And back in 2019, I wrote about the two month odyssey I underwent trying to change internet providers. Today, I have another story to share; this one about my attempts to get Fiber internet in my apartment. If you can believe it, this story actually begins in 2021. Yes. This particular odyssey was over a year in the making.

It started in the summer of 2021 when I decided that I wanted to upgrade my internet to a Fiber optic connection. Life was still playing out mostly on Zoom, and I was tired of the “Your Internet connection is unstable” messages I kept getting during these calls. Luckily, there was a little placard above my building’s row of mailboxes that said that the building was equipped for Fiber. All I had to do was call the internet provider and order it. HA!

My first hurdle was that the internet provider that had equipped my building with Fiber was not my current internet provider. This meant I had to cancel my current plan and subscribe with the new company. Which meant I had to mail a letter (yes, snail mail) to cancel my current subscription. After 10 days, they cut off my internet connection and asked me to mail back the box and cables. Which I did.

In the meantime, I signed up for my new internet package. It included the Fiber connection, a Netflix subscription, and a bunch of other incentives. But all I really cared about was having a faster and more reliable internet connection. They mailed me the box and cables, I set them up, and the connection was turned on. I had internet access once more. But there was one problem. It wasn’t Fiber. It was the old ADSL connection.

I called my internet provider to ask when the Fiber would be turned on, only to be told that Fiber wasn’t available on my floor in the building. Say what now? Apparently the Fiber cables hadn’t been run up the final flight of stairs just yet. I asked when that would happen, and they assured me that it would be soon. They said they would call me to make an appointment to connect my apartment once the cables had been run up to my floor. Simple, right? You clearly don’t understand how France works.

After a couple of months and no call to schedule an appointment, I called them back. The cables still hadn’t been run up to my floor. Another couple of months went by and I called them again. This time I was told that there was a shortage of the cables needed to make the connection, so I would have to wait. Yet another couple of months went by, and I was finally told that they had halted all installations of Fiber due to supply chain issues, despite the fact that they were still advertising Fiber as available for purchase on their website. I swear, only in France.

When we hit the one year mark of this journey (yes, this went on for a year), I called them once more, demanding that they either give me what I paid for or offer me a discount on my subscription. They said no to both, and so I started shopping around for a new internet plan. But then, to my complete and utter surprise, I suddenly received an email inviting me to schedule an appointment to have Fiber installed. Success! Or so I thought.

I made the appointment and awaited the day with excited trepidation. The two technicians arrived right on time, and they made quick work of installing the Fiber box and running the cables into my apartment. I was on the verge of declaring victory when they asked me for the connector cables that apparently had been mailed to me. I’m sure this will surprise no one to learn that I hadn’t received any such package. They quickly called their manager, and five minutes later I was assured that the package with my cables was on its way. The technicians explained how to connect the cables once the package arrived, and then they left. I was still without Fiber, but I was so close.

The all important package arrived two days later, which was an impressive turnaround for France. However, it was unfortunate timing given that it arrived as I was literally on my way out the door to go on a business trip. I put the package on my counter, content to plug in everything when I got home, and headed for the airport. And this is where the story really gets good.

Two weeks later, I was at the top of the North Seoul Tower, admiring the beautiful view of the city, when my phone beeped. It had connected to the city’s free wifi and a text message had come through. My internet provider had detected that my Fiber wasn’t connected, and they had sent a technician to check it out. He was at my apartment, asking to be let in. Again, say what now? Over a year of abysmal customer service and suddenly they were being proactive? It was both impressive and amusing. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to take advantage of it, because as previously mentioned, I was in Seoul. Because of course I was out of town when a technician was available to finish the connection for me.

Two days later I arrived back in Paris. I went straight from the airport to my apartment, and the first thing I did was open the package and plug in the cables. And miracle of all miracles, it worked. A full 15 months after I first signed up for Fiber, I finally had a working Fiber connection. French bureaucracy had been conquered once more. Easy, right?

I should note that once again I did not do any of this on my own. In fact, I myself did very little. I have an incredible assistant, Brennen Barker, who singlehandedly dealt with all of this over the past 15 months. Including dealing with the technician for me while I was in Seoul. So a HUGE thank you to Brennen for all that he does for me. I don’t know how I’d navigate life in France without him.

Laura Moore is a professional storyteller who loves history and the many stories that make Paris one of the most fascinating cities in the world. Join one of her signature tours to learn the story of a city.


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