This article guides you through picking the right plan with one of the main internet providers in France. Learn what internet options are available at your address and what to watch for before signing up.
Disclosure: This site is sponsored by ads and affiliate programs. I may earn money from the companies mentioned in this post.
If you are not familiar with the internet technologies available in France, read Internet Technologies in France first, otherwise let’s jump right in.
Main internet providers (ISP) in France
Orange used to be France Télécom, the one and only phone company in France until 1998. There are many internet providers in France in 2023 and I recommend that you pick one of the 4 main ones.
Sosh (sub-brand from Orange) and Red by SFR (sub-brand from SFR) are low-cost internet providers that are worth considering:
Regular internet providers vs low-cost providers in France
The 2 main differences between regular internet providers and low-cost internet providers in France are the commitment period and customer service. The quality of the internet connection is the same because low-cost providers use the same lines as the regular ones.
I’ve been using Red by SFR for the past two years (for both mobile and fiber optic) and I’m very satisfied with their services. I find them to be responsive when I need any help. Getting in touch with them through their phone app is convenient and easy.
Engagement 1 an (One-Year Commitment Period)
Most regular internet providers in France offer a one-year commitment period contract. By law, the commitment period cannot exceed 2 years. During the commitment period, you cannot switch to another ISP unless you pay for the remaining months.
On the other end, low-cost internet providers in France like Sosh and Red by SFR typically do not require any commitment period as they are sans engagement (no contract). You are free to end your subscription at any time.
Some regular internet providers now offer some sans engagement plans (no commitment).
Service client (Customer service)
Customer service from low-cost companies is supposedly not as good as customer service for mainstream providers. Red by SFR offers over the phone customer service for the first two months. After that, you need to use their mobile application to contact them. This is not an issue if you’re confortable with online chatting. My experience with Red by SFR is very positive as I was always able to resolve any issue very quickly.
Are you eligible for fiber optic?
Since fiber optic internet is the internet access of choice, your very first step is to check if you can get fiber optic at your place. The best way to find out is to use the internet provider’s eligibility tests directly as this information changes (almost) daily. Click on the internet provider’s logo to directly access their fiber optic internet eligibility test page.
Best internet provider in France
The best internet provider in France is the one that provides the best service for your specific address. Even though fiber optic internet is actively being developed all over the country, some areas in rural France do not have access to fiber optic internet yet.
If you are not eligible for fiber optic internet (do not despair, it will come to you!) you need to find out which technologies and internet providers are available at your address. Most homes in France are eligible for ADSL (DSL). I recommend that you use this eligibility test from DegroupTest.
Check Particulier (private) or Professionnel (professional), enter your address in the first field and click Lancer le test. You can leave the email field empty. The results you get will help you choose which French internet provider to pick. Here are my results:
Analyzing your results
My results indicate that only ADSL and 4G are available at my place. A very important piece of information is that my internet speed connection cannot be greater than 2.8 Mbps with ADSL (DSL). If I was living at an address closer to the nearest noeud de raccordement (phone’s company switch), I could possibly get up to 12 Mbps with ADSL. Considering my results, a good 4G connection would justify getting a 4G Box rather than using DSL since 2.8 Mbps is pretty low.
The next section in the results page lists all the internet providers available as well as the technology, internet speed and plans they offer at your address.
If you are considering DSL, scroll down to the ADSL section to check the closest Nœud de Raccordement (phone company’s switch) as well as the list of providers you can use.
Keep scrolling down. The following 4G section displays the name of the closest 4G or 4G+ antenna and how far it is from your address for each internet provider available.
The last section at the bottom of the page shows the 4G antennas and nœuds de raccordements or NRAs on a map. Click on the antenna or NRA to display the details.
Since fiber optic internet is being developed super fast, It is very possible that fiber optic shows up as indisponible (unavailable) in your results even though it is available to you. Before picking a plan, test your eligibility to fiber optic by using one of the tests from the French internet providers.
Pick your internet plan
Now that you know which internet providers and technologies are available at your place, you can pick a plan from the DegroupTest results page by clicking on Voir les Offres.
There are also a number of internet plan compararison websites that you can use, like the following ones.
What’s in a box?
In France, you get fiber optic, DSL and 4G internet access via une Box internet (in French) lent to you (usually for free) by your internet provider. A Box works as both a modem and a router by sending Wi-Fi signals inside your home.
Internet providers in France use their own fancy names for their equipment. Bouygues has a series of Bbox plans.
While Free offers different models of Freebox.
Orange packages their equipment as Livebox.
Red by SFR offers internet access through a Red Box.
As far as I know, Sosh is the only one that is using the French word boîte instead of box.
What to look for before signing up with an internet provider in France
Setting up your internet is a good opportunity to read the fine lines before committing, as there are a few things to be aware of.
Duration and price of your contract
If you use a regular French internet provider (not a low-cost one), check the duration of the price you sign for as well as the length of your contract. In the following offer from Bouygues, you agree to sign for a one-year contract at a 26.98€ monthly fee, which will automatically increase to 52.98€ after the first year. The keyword is puis (then) that states the future price increase.
Even though your intention is to cancel after one year, chances are that you will pay the hefty price once or twice before you remember to switch to another provider.
Before signing up, look for extra fees that you will have to pay on top of your monthly cost.
Equipment rental fees
Is the internet Box included in the price? Most internet providers in France lend you a Box for free but it is still better to make sure beforehand.
For its BBox Must, Bouygues charges 3€ a month for frais de location (modem/router rental fees) but these fees are included in the monthly price.
Keep the internet equipment shipping boxes as you have to send everything back at the end of your subscription.
Frais d’activation ou de mise en service (Setup fees)
All internet providers in France charge Frais d’activation (setup fees) to be paid once at the beginning of your subscription. They are sometimes called frais de mise en service or frais d’ouverture de service. They are around 50€ on average.
Frais de résiliation (Cancelling fees)
All internet providers in France charge cancelling fees that are usually around 50€.
A number of internet providers reimburse cancelling fees charged by your previous internet provider. Red by SFR and Bouygues both have such an offre de remboursement (reimbursement offer).
I explain in details how to cancel your subscription in Résiliation Internet, a few paragraphs down.
Frais de portabilité du numéro fixe (Keep your previous number fees)
When you switch internet providers, you can keep your previous landline number. Your new provider might ask you for a fee to transfer the number.
Frais de raccordement (Installation fees)
If a technician needs to come to your place to set up your internet connection, you might be charged frais de raccordement. Most providers offer this service for free nowadays.
Data usage for 4G box
Your monthly data usage is usually restricted to 200-250 Gb when you get a 4G box. Ask your internet provider how much they charge once you go over the limit.
At this time, Bouygues is the only provider I know that has un unlimited data offer for a 4G Box.
Offres triple play (Three-in-one packages)
Most providers have offres triple play (three-in-one packages) that include internet connection, TV service and one landline phone subscription.
If you live in a zône dégroupée, your ISP provides your landline. Make sure you get free calls to the United States as well as free calls to cell phones from your landline.
Did you know?
In France, phone calls from a landline to cell phones are not charged the same as phone calls between two landlines or two cell phones. Make sure your landline contract includes appels illimités vers les mobiles (unlimited phone calls to cell phones) or else you will be charged extra.
You cannot purchase a package that includes TV when you get a 4G Box. You need to use a TV app from your provider and purchase a chromecast key to watch programs on your TV.
Internet providers in France for satellite
If you live in rural France and you cannot get a decent 4G signal, you might have to go the satellite route to get a good internet connection.
Satellite providers in France
There are 4 main satellite providers in France.
Nordnet is a branch from Orange. Starlink is available in France since May 2021.
Internet access via satellite requires that you purchase a satellite dish and have a technician come to your place to install it. I recommend that you check out satellite installation technicians in your local area as they might have better prices on satellite equipment.
Starlink gives you the option of renting a satellite dish for €10 per month instead of having to purchase one.
How to cancel your internet service
When cancelling your internet service before the end of your subscription, you have to pay for the remaining months. Once your subscription is up, you still have to pay frais de résiliation (cancellation fees). Your cancellation takes effect ten days after your subscription has ended. Each internet provider has its own cancellation policy.
Cancel your Bouygues internet service
Bouygues lets you cancel online via your espace client (user account). You will receive a text with the name of the point-relais where to bring your Bbox back within forty-five days after the end of your subscription.
When you pick Bouygues as your new internet provider, you do not have to cancel your previous subscription as Bouygues can cancel your previous plan for you.
Cancel your internet service with Free
Call 3244 and select Information sur la résiliation de votre abonnement (information on how to cancel your subscription). A Free assistant will give you the address where to send your cancellation request via lettre recommandée (registered mail). Jump to How to Use La Poste Lettre de résiliation Sample to learn how to send your cancellation request.
Print your bon de retour (return label) from your espace client (user account). Bring your Freebox to the closest UPS access point within fifteen days after the end of your subscription.
Cancel your internet service with Orange or Sosh
In your espace client (user account), go to Gestion du contrat, Résilier votre offre. Orange will send you an email to indicate where to bring back your Livebox within thirty days after the end of your subscription.
Cancel your SFR internet service
Call 1023 to get the address where to send yourcancellation request via lettre recommandée (registered mail).Jump to How to Use La Poste Lettre de résiliation Sample to learn how to send your cancellation request.
Cancel your internet service with Red by SFR
In your espace client (user account), go to Nous contacter, Forfait options et services, Résilier mon offre internet. You have three weeks to return your Box after the end of your subscription.
How to Use La Poste lettre de résiliation (Cancellation letter) sample
Go to La Poste Envoyer une lettre recommandée en ligne.
Click on J’envoie ma lettre recommandée en ligne (I send my letter by registered mail online).
Select Utiliser un modèle de lettre (use a letter sample).
Select Résiliations diverses (various cancellation letters).
Select Offre internet. In the dropdown list, pick the statement that describes best your situation:
- Abonnement internet avec engagement (internet subscription with a contract or commitment period)
- Abonnement internet sans engagement (internet subscription with no commitment)
- Cas de force majeure (legitimate reason)
- Dysfonctionnement (internet is not working properly)
- Pas de service après souscription (no service after subscription)
- Résiliation anticipée d’un abonnement internet (internet subscription cancellation before the end of your contract)
Click on the Utiliser ce modèle de lettre (use this lettre sample) button at the bottom of the page.
On the next page, replace the information between square brackets with your own data (name, contract number..). You can select how to end your letter with a formule de politesse (closing sentence). Sign and validate or press Conserver un brouillon (save a copy for later). The price to send a lettre recommandée online with La Poste is around 7€ at the time.
Can you avoid paying cancellation fees to your internet provider in France?
Most internet providers have a cancellation fees exemption policy for motif légitime (legitimate reason) like moving to another country for instance. Here is a list of the most common situations that justify an exemption but each provider sets its own policy:
- déménagement à l’étranger (international move)
- losing your job
- being hospitalized for a long amount of time
- death (!)
Send your internet provider a justificatif (proof) that your situation qualifies for an exemption along with your cancellation request.
I recently moved and went from a 3Mbps DSL connection to using fiber optic internet. My internet speed is now two hundred times faster than before. What is your experience of using internet in France? Share your story in the comments section below
Once you have internet access in France, what about using a VPN to access restricted American websites?