Subject: Re: a bit OT- Fully Open Standards for Citizen-Government
From: Laurent GUERBY <laurent@guerby.net>
Date: Thu, 21 Apr 2005 23:46:40 +0200

A few news from communist :) France on the topic of taxes and broadband.

For a few year now fully electronic online income tax declaration form
has been available for french taxpayers, with at the end an indicative.
Last year 1.5 millions french taxpayers (out of 33 millions) used it,
this year given the impressive rise of broadband and internet access in
France, plus a 20 euros tax break if taxes are both filed and paid
online, as of today 3 millions french taxpayers have declared their
taxes online. Paper documents needed to justify tax breaks don't need to
be sent by snail mail, they have to be kept at home by the taxpayer, the
IRS keeps the right to ask for them in case of declaration inspection.

The french IRS had not planned such success and the system is currently
overwhelmed it's hard to get a "slot" to validate the electronic
declaration, the government extended the deadline for online filling for
three full weeks (paper filling is now over deadline).

The online system use a web browser, https, a Java library that
generates locally a digital certificate. Some public servants have been
helpful on free software newsgroup and mailing lists in getting running
the thing on Linux with various versions of browsers and JVM (I've been
using it myself for a few years, my mother and my sister succeeded too
with their brand new Linux machine this year).

The web form matches exactly the various paper form (down to the
color :), so the same documentation apply. At the end of filling, a web
page gives you an estimate of the taxes you will pay, then you validate
your declaration. You can change and revalidate later on up to the
deadline.

Your previous year declaration forms you filled even in paper, and
an history of various taxes payment are available online (I now pay
all my taxes, income and property, online).

Of course the only JVMs that work are proprietary, free software
groups are discussing a request to open the signing protocol
so a fully free software solution can be developped and used.
Security of the system is also being questionned.

The server systems used to handle the task are believed to be mostly
Linux systems.

Context on the broadband growth:

On the broadband side, government regulations have forced the former
public monopoly telco to open it's line to customer to other
telcos in various form separating telephony and DSL (commercial leasing,
partial unbundling including only DSL and full unbundling). Current
leading offer are full unbundling (no tie to former monopoly) for 30 to
35 euros VAT included per month offers with 16Mbit/s down, 1Mbit/s up,
fixed IP, TV over DSL (many channels) and unlimited free phone to other
fixed lines (unbundled or not). Out of more than 6 millions DSL lines, 2
millions lines are partially unbundled and 150k lines fully unbundled
(the unbundling number is rising extremely rapidly, +50k in the past
three monthes, my own line will be fully unbundled in the next few
days).

Some cities or areas offer their own lines either more or less directly,
or leasing fiber to commercial operators. Opening the 3.4-3.8 GHz band
for municipal and commercial Wimax is under active discussions.

Laurent