Trying to figure out Orange is driving me bananas.
October 31, 2011 3:56 AM   Subscribe

Help me understand just what I've gotten myself into with regards to my Orange internet connection. (I'm in France.)

I recently moved to a new town in France, and my apartment doesn't have pre-existing internet access.

Went to Orange to set things up, and that's when things got confusing. Apparently my apartment didn't have a previous line, but another apartment in my complex did. So they're going to see if that line works, and if not they'll need to send a technician to set one up and my internet should be up and running two weeks after that.

My question: can someone please explain, in simple English, how getting an Orange internet connection works in France? For the record, I've got the Decouverte plan sans engagement. The tech tried explaining, but but I'm still not totally clear- he insisted on speaking in (rather mangled) English, which is probably why I'm so confused. I'd really like to know what I've let myself in for, and what I can expect.

So if anyone could explain how the whole shebang works, I'd be most grateful.
posted by Tamanna to Computers & Internet (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
This link mentions an "English speaking" number for Orange which might be helpful (not sure if you've tried it already). It also has some other info on signing up for the Decouverte plan. From the looks of it though you'll be getting ADSL broadband, where they give you an ADSL modem to plug into the phone line. Two weeks is about normal for them to get it up and running as (from my experience in the UK) they have to sort stuff out at the telephone exchange as well as in your appartment for the internet connection to start working. The fact that the other appartment had internet means the exchange stuff might already be set up for the whole building.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 4:16 AM on October 31, 2011

I suspect that the key consideration could be whether your local exchange has been "degrouped" or not. If it has then you will be able to switch from France Telecom to any one of a number of a number of other providers and your rates will be comparatively cheap. If not then you can still switch to other operators but they must pay fees to France Telecom so your costs will be higher and your flexibility less. The fact that Orange is France Telcom does not really change things in this instance. Here is a site where you can enter your number and find out whether it is degrouped or not.
posted by rongorongo at 4:22 AM on October 31, 2011

Oh - and if your line is degrouped - and you take over an existing France Telecom line - then you will find that your new number is built on top of the old one. So you will still be the "owner" of the old number you have taken over - but the new one will be the one that you give out to people.
posted by rongorongo at 4:28 AM on October 31, 2011

Best answer: Unfortunately it's not even simple in French. To make a long story short, France Telecom (of which Orange is one of its brands now) used to be the national telephone/telecoms provider; they're called the "historical provider" for this reason. All infrastructure was built and managed by them. Some time back, France Telecom was privatized, and other telecoms providers were allowed to use their infrastructure.

rongorongo is correct in that your main consideration will thus be whether your area is dégroupé or not. Dégroupage means that the physical infrastructure is entirely open for other providers to use. If it's not, then as rongorongo alludes to, the physical infrastructure is still under FT's control and is "rented" to other operators, which means two things, in fact: slower connections (whether from FT or others) and more expensive/convoluted contracts. If you're in a relatively large city, it's probably dégroupé. In that case you can have FT install the line and then choose another operator. There are several that are cheaper and more reliable than FT/Orange.

You'd think that FT/Orange would be more reliable, but my 12 years of experience living here have shown me that friends with FT/Orange have problems regularly, as in once every month or three, while those with other operators don't, or have them much less often. And this is on the same infrastructure! There's one operator in particular that gets a lot of publicity flak, Free, but – this is my personal experience – I have never had a problem with them, and I'm going on 11 years with an ADSL connection through them. No one I know has problems with them either. A lot of us suspect they catch so much flak because they're the main motivators behind dégroupage and, more recently, attacking the price fixing that's done by mobile providers here.

Anyway. Long story short, telecoms in France in general are a bit of a hornet's nest.

You'll be charged for the line installation, btw - did they tell you that? FT is infamous about not informing customers of all the stuff they charge for. The line itself, the technician's travel charge, the line activation (different from installation), all of that can/will be billed separately. You may be looking at 80-120 euros just for that (not counting the subscription). A quick Google search confirms that price range, most cite 109 euros.
posted by fraula at 5:12 AM on October 31, 2011 [2 favorites]

Apart from fraula I'd like to add another vote to consider Free if you are having problems, you have a degrouped line and you have not yet signed with Orange. Their website includes a wizard process to walk you through the application process if you do not yet have your own phone number - this includes instructions of how to use a previous number. Some more about Free in English - they strike me as a company who are keen to innovate in terms of both technology and service.
posted by rongorongo at 6:32 AM on October 31, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for the information, everyone!

Sadly I have signed with Orange already.

Maybe I'm dumb, but I'm still confused. When I went to the Orange store, the tech told me that someone on the third floor of my building used to have a connection with Orange (she ended her connection in 2005) and they were going to see if that line worked. So assuming it does, that's what they'll use to connect me?
posted by Tamanna at 7:12 AM on October 31, 2011

Response by poster: Also, I'm in Arras, if that helps.
posted by Tamanna at 7:33 AM on October 31, 2011

Best answer: In a normal country the phone engineer would look to see if there is sufficient space on your exchange and at the primary connection point (junction box out in the street). If there was enough space then they would assign you a new number from a pool of unused ones. They would run a wire to your apartment if one was not already in place.

But you are in France and things are more complicated. They still make the checks to see if you have enough local capacity - but, if there is, then the line you inherit will be brought over to you complete with its old number. You then get a new number which will piggyback over the old one. Typically the old number, under these circumstances, would be obtained from the previous occupant of your apartment - but there should be no reason why Orange cannot take it from another vacant and technically working line in your apartment.

In my case my inherited number, from the person I bough the property from, starts with 04.... and the new "degrouped" one (which I tell people) starts with 09...

As fraula says - hard enough to explain even without a language barrier.
posted by rongorongo at 7:47 AM on October 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Merci mille fois, fraula and rongorongo! I was beginning to doubt both my intelligence and my command of the French language. (Which, considering I have a Master's in the damn thing, is testament to how completely bizarre this whole system is...)
posted by Tamanna at 7:54 AM on October 31, 2011

As your Orange contract is sans engagement, that means you can cancel any time without penalty, if you want/find something clearly better for you. Now, the non-penalty is legally required. They may still try to penalize you, which is illegal. (Welcome to France, where FT/Orange and a few other big-name providers play the "try to leave us without penalty and we'll try to penalize you" game.)

Please don't doubt your intelligence. Highly intelligent French people who have grown up inside the country get confused by this stuff (and unfortunately, a few providers count on that confusion, sigh. We have a long way to go, and yes, Free is one of the rare providers trying to help pave the way.)
posted by fraula at 8:00 AM on October 31, 2011

I'm glad that you guys got this straightened out, and wanted to emphasize that you are not alone! I had the same problem last year, except it was FREE who were being the totally unprofessional boors (who tried to bill me €200+ of un-served service and connection/disconnection fees to services I had not authorized them to not provide me. Confusing? It really was.)

In the end, all the providers have their pitfalls, but I have had good luck with SFR once I could get FREE's claws out of my lines. Never had any downtime, good online forums for random problems, and good on-phone and in-store help near me (except this one girl...).
posted by whatzit at 9:39 AM on October 31, 2011

Contrary to the prevailing wisdom, I'm so happy with my Orange connection in France that it positively has me gurgling with delight in comparison with my US ISP (which is in the top 1% of providers year after year). The problem is that the Orange / France Telecom bureaucracy has to send a message by pigeon to Jacques in B├ęthune in order to get the connection made.

Once made, the thing is so damned solid year after year that it's worth the hassle.
posted by jet_silver at 7:33 PM on October 31, 2011

A helpful place is the unofficial Orange forum. It's "unofficial" but Orange techs hang out there.
posted by elgilito at 8:36 AM on November 1, 2011

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