France Telecom has laid new optical fiber connections direct to 100 homes in and around Paris to test a very high-speed broadband access service, the company said Tuesday.For 70 euros\u00a0(US$88) a month, customers participating in the fiber trial get Internet access, digital television broadcasts and unlimited telephone calls over an optical connection with a theoretical maximum data rate of 2.5Gbps downstream, and 1.2Gbps upstream. The price includes installation and activation of equipment at the customers\u2019 homes, and the first two months\u2019 access are free.During the trial, France Telecom also plans to offer interactive television services and videoconferencing, and will test new content-sharing and gaming services, it said.Former monopoly operators in other countries are eyeing similar strategies. German operator Deutsche Telekom, for example, is laying fiber to the curb in front of German homes, and plans to use VDSL (very high-speed DSL) technology over the last few meters to deliver broadband services to the homes at up to 50Mbps. It wants the service to be exempt from regulation, on the basis that it is a new market. German parliamentarians will debate a new telecommunications law that could decide such an exemption after the summer recess.France Telecom, meanwhile, has laid 100 kilometers of new fiber, connecting its network direct to houses and apartments in six of the 20 arrondissements (administrative districts) in Paris, and in the nearby towns of Asnieres-sur-Seine, Boulogne-Billancourt, Issy-les-Moulineaux, Rueil-Malmaison and Villeneuve-la-Garenne. The service is delivered over a giga passive optical network (GPON), the company said. The GPON standards were developed by the International Telecommunication Union, beginning in 2003.Delivering new broadband services using fiber to the home would be attractive for France Telecom,\u00a0because in the market for existing consumer broadband services it is hemmed in by competitors and regulations. Using unregulated fiber would allow it, and other former monopoly operators in markets where copper infrastructure is heavily regulated, to offer something their younger competitors can\u2019t. France Telecom owns the decades-old copper infrastructure that links most homes to the French telephone system, but is obliged to rent it at a closely regulated price to competitors wishing to offer DSL services. They, in turn, typically undercut France Telecom\u2019s retail prices to offer a better, cheaper service over its own infrastructure. For example, France Telecom bundles Internet access at up to 18Mbps and digital television service for around 40 euros\u00a0a month, with unlimited telephone calls costing 10 euros\u00a0a month more. Meanwhile, competitor Iliad, through its subsidiary Free, bundles Internet access, digital TV and unlimited calls to European and North American destinations for about 30 euros\u00a0a month. On Wednesday, Free announced it will increase the maximum speed of connections to 28Mbps for users of its newest modem, with no change in price.-Peter Sayer, IDG News Service (Paris Bureau)Check out our CIO News Alerts and Tech Informer pages for more updated news coverage.