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THE RIGHT CONNECTIONS


Connections

Keeping in touch with loved ones back home, and finding the cheapest solutions for phoning both locally and abroad, connecting to the internet (whether at your place or an internet cafι) is an ongoing dilemma. Courtney Traub compares providers and prices to help you make the right choice.

FINDING THE RIGHT INTERNET CAFE

Groggy, disoriented, and jet-lagged from your journey to France, (if you're an American) your only urge aside from sleep is to write an e-mail home to announce you've arrived safely. Even if you're armed with a laptop or have arranged for the delivery of a new PC, it will take you some time to set up an internet service. Or perhaps you're a student on a small budget who has no intention of buying a computer in a country where electronics are taxed at high rates. Time to stumble out into the unfamiliar streets of the City of Lights in search of the ideal cybercafe. But where to begin?

In 1995, a previously internet-weary Paris opened Cafe Orbital in the Quarter Latin, and, predictably, dozens of others opened in the following years. From run-down to unbearably hip, you can now happen upon an Internet cafe in central Paris without having to consult the phone directory. The night of your arrival, this isn't such a bad idea, but after that you'ld be well advised to shop around for the cafe that best suits your needs. Is e-mail at a cheap rate your only priority? Do you need to print, scan, transfer documents, or use other applications? Is a high-speed connection enough, or do you need the fastest speed available? Is a trendy ambience with designer chairs and lounge music wafting through the air an essential, worth a designer premium? These are all factors to consider when choosing an internet cafe that you plan to spend some time in.

I've reviewed 5 of the most frequented cybercafes in Paris, ranging from among the least expensive and minimalist to the trendiest. Remember that connection rates can change so it's best to confirm rates directly with the cafes themselves.

Right Bank
Cyberbeaubourg
38, Rue Quincampoix, 4th
M/RER Chatelet-Les Halles
Tel: 01 42 71 49 80
Open Mon-Sun, 9am-10pm
Price: €€1/2, Services: **, Ambience: **

Just metres away from the imposing Centre Georges Pompidou is a modest, though well-equipped, internet cafe used mostly by students and locals, some with the glazed, pale faces of video game addicts or hackers. Swivelling leather exec chairs and a cool, cave-like atmosphere dominate the scene. High-speed modems, access to Microsoft Office applications, printers, scanner, and floppy disk drive are all available, mostly for separate fees. Tariffs are on the higher end. PCs only. There is no food or drink sold on the premises of the cafe.

Tariffs:
15 min= € 2.25
30 min= € 3.75
1 hour= € 7.20
Cards:
5 H = € 28.50
10 H= € 44
20 H= € 73.50

Rental of computer for use of applications and floppy drive= € 0.75/hour
Printing per page black and white=€ 0.15
Printing per page colour= € 0.60
Scanner (per document) = € 6.75


Easy Internet Cafe
31/37 Blvd. Sebastopol, 2nd
6 Rue de la Harpe, 5th (left bank)
M/RER Chatelet-les Halles
Open Mon-Sun, 24hours
Price: €, Services: *, Ambience: *

Part of the "Easy" empire, this massive, multi-levelled Internet centre can hardly be called a cafe, and of course it's not unique to Paris. It is the fast-food chain of the cyber world, convenient and inexpensive, but shallow when it comes to "extras". Walk into the zillion-metres squared store at Sebastopol and get lost among hundreds of internautes, frantically typing e-mails or playing video games under garish florescent lights. The Saint-Michel store is…surprise…. very much the same.

The hourly forfait fluctuates, depending on the time of the day you log on. Here's the procedure: When fed € coins, a giant orange machine spits out a ticket with a code on it. You then fight to find a free station, type in your code, choose a password, and surf as long as the ticket allows you. If you run out of time you can easily buy a new ticket, but the computer will automatically shut down. Your ticket is good for 30 days from the day of purchase as long as it still has credit left on it.

Access is cheapest in the late evenings and early mornings, and is as low as € 0.50 during off -peak hours. The Sebastopol Store has 360 PCs, and at Saint-Michel there are 260.

Customer service is more or less non-existent, but this shouldn't pose too much of a problem, as everything is so…well…easy. But the minimalist design of the service and low cost is less attractive once you go to print, copy, or transfer data onto a disk. This is a low-cost, no frill service.

Coffee and snacks aren't served…but they are available from vending machines.


Cybercafe de Paris
15 Rue des Halles, 1st
Metro/RER Chatelet-les Halles
01 42 21 11 11
Open Mon-Sun, 9am-12am
Price: €€1/2, Services: **, Ambience: **

Proudly boasting free coffee (Nescafe) for sleepy surfers and nurturing a kind of hippie-urbanite, "bo-bo" atmosphere (French slang for "bourgeois-boheme"), the Cybercafe de Paris is vast and breezy, with high ceilings, Japanese lanterns, and maps of the world gracing the walls. There are 40 well-dispersed computers, two levels (including a must-avoid musty basement), access to printers, floppy drives, applications, and scanner with a fee. Surfers surf the web on high wooden stools. Mostly PCs, with a few Macs in the basement.

The pricing system is a bit irksome. You pay a whopping € 8 per hour if you choose against the card system. The price goes down to € 5 per hour if you buy a €25 card. Price-wise this is not the cafe for one-time surfing, but the milieu is pleasant and the staff are helpful.

Tariffs:
First 5 minutes= € 0.20- next minute € 0.20
€ 8 per hour
5 hour card= € 25
15 hour card= € 45
48 hour card= € 72
Coca-Cola, juices, cookies= € 2


Left Bank
Cafe Orbital
3 Rue de Medicis, 6th
M Cluny-La Sorbonne or RER Luxembourg
Open Mon-Sun 10:30 am-10pm, 12pm-8pm weekends and holidays.
Price: €€€, Services: **1/2, Ambience: ***

Holding the somewhat elite status of ushering in the cybercafe craze in Paris, Cafe Orbital maintains its reputation as the chic spot for surfing. Across the street from the Luxembourg Gardens, everything here seems to have a designer touch - from the neo-kitsch chairs to the intricate blue ceiling spotted with constellations. You can buy a cappuccino or beer and settle into your web session, provided by a maximum-speed connection. The dual-level cafe has 25 Macs and PCs, most with English keyboards (a sign that this cafe caters especially to tourists.) Microsoft Suite, scanners, CD-burners, zip drives, webcams, and video editing equipment are only some of the resources at your fingertips… for hefty fees. This cafe is perfect for those who value quality over price.

Tariffs:
15 minutes= € 3
30 minutes= € 4.50
45 minutes= € 6.50
60 minutes= € 7
75 minutes= € 9.50
Cards:
5 hours: € 30
10 hours: € 40
20 hours: € 70
50 hours: €125

Printing per copy b/w: € 0.30
Printing per copy colour: € 0.60
CD-burner: € 4


Jardin de L'Internet
79 blvd. Saint-Michel, 5th
RER Luxembourg
Tel: 01 44 07 22 20
Price: €€, Services: **, Ambience: **

Jardin de L'Internet is a comfortable and unpretentious cyber-joint not far from the Cafe Orbital. The tariffs here are quite reasonable and the ambience decent, especially the greenery-lined terrace out front. Inside, 20 PCs are flanked by plastic plants and a snack bar selling cold and hot drinks and junk food. Microsoft applications, printers, floppy drive, and scanners are available. This is your perfect middle-of-the-range cafe.

Tariffs:
15 minutes= € 1.10
30 minutes= € 1.90
1 hour= € 3
Coffee= € 1.10


WHICH INTERNET SERVER ?

If there's anything that points to the near-extinction of France's Minitel system, it's the raging market wars between Internet service providers. A rising demand for accessible, affordable internet service has prompted companies like France Telecom, Noos, Club Internet, and AOL France to respond with deals, deals, and more deals. Of course, it's not uncommon to find all sorts of tangled restrictions and obligations hidden in the fine print, so before you choose an Internet service, carry out enough research in advance and consult fluent French-speakers if your own Gallic tongue is lacking somewhat. One thing you should be aware of before signing any contract is that many of the best packages on offer require that you sign up for a year - no exceptions made. This is the case with Noos, who currently offer a cable modem with unlimited access for € 19 per month. According to friends, Noos has very solid service and will come to your help at the drop of a hat, but you must be willing to make the one-year engagement.

If you're accustomed to Anglophone-style customer service, you may feel an urge to pull your hair out if and when you encounter problems with your connection. I recently had a lengthy telephone dispute with a technician from Wanadoo who insisted that I couldn't connect to the server was the fault of my modem. I had thoroughly checked the status of my modem and there were no problems indicated. I ended the call by hanging up in a rage. Five minutes later, I called back and was told by another technician that the server had a major problem and had been down for over two hours. This incident served as a firm reminder that in France, getting a second or third opinion is almost always the best approach.

You may be tempted to sign up for "free" internet connections, and this is all well and good if you only check your e-mail once a week. Otherwise, be forewarned that you will pay for the cost of a local telephone call every time you connect - and this could make the "free" service far less advantageous than a fixed monthly package that includes the use of the telephone line and taxes.

Consult our info below to compare current offers, and then contact servers for more detailed information.

Happy surfing!

Guide to Internet Servers
All= "all included" (local telephone call, taxes)

AOL France - AOL
0826 02 6000 (€0.15/minute)
Forfaits
Dial-up:
50 hours/month = €14.95 all for two years minimum
2 hours/month = €5.34 all
15 hours/month = €16.90 all
30 hours/month = €33.63 all
ADSL connection: €44.99/month for one year minimum plus €64 installation fee, Modem free

Club Internet - Club Internet
0826 027 028 (€0.15/min.)
Forfaits
Dial-up:
3 hours/month = €6 all
8 hours/month = €12 all
20 hours/month = €18 all
ADSL connection: €45/month for one year minimum plus cost of modem

Freesurf - Freesurf
0825 80 78 06 (free call)
Forfaits
Dial-up: free access (must pay for local telephone calls)
ADSL connection: €45/month all for one year minimum plus cost of modem

Noos - NOOS
0800 114 114 (free call)
Forfaits
High-speed cable connection: €19/month, minimum one year, €70 cable modem

Tiscali - Tiscali
0825 95 95 95 (free call)
Forfaits
Dial-Up:
Free subscription (must pay for local telephone calls)
5 hours/month = €5.50 all
10 hours/month = €9.50 all
20 hours/month = €14.50 all
30 hours/month = €22.50 all
"Forfait illimite": €22.95/month, minimum one year (regular dial-up connection)
ADSL connection: €45.50/month for one year minimum plus €49.95 installation charge, Modem free

Wanadoo (France Telecom) - Wanadoo
Free call: 10 14
Forfaits
Dial-Up:
Free connection: must pay for local telephone calls
5 hours/month = €8 all
10 hours/month = €10.36 all
20 hours/month = €14.94 all
30 hours/month = €22.56 all
100 hours/month = €42.38 all
ADSL connection: €45.42/month all, €150.92 high-speed modem



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