MFederal Digital Minister Volker Wissing (FDP) wants to take almost 100 individual measures to ensure that all citizens in Germany will soon have access to fast Internet – not only in the cities, but also in remote areas in the country. This emerges from the draft of his “gigabit strategy”, which he intends to present to his cabinet colleagues this Wednesday. It is available to the FAZ.
However, the federal states must also take action to this end, they should simplify and accelerate approval procedures, for example in building law. This should be on the way by the end of the year. In addition, Wissing wants to see more pragmatism when laying the lines. If new technologies cause damage to roads, a liability fund should compensate for this. This is intended to take away the concerns of telecommunications companies about using new methods. In trains, too, reception is to be greatly improved in the future, and the tracks and vehicles are to be converted accordingly. One pillar of the strategy is also aimed at recruiting skilled workers. They are desperately wanted in this area as well.
The aim of the strategy is to connect at least half of the households and companies in Germany to the fiber optic network by 2025. Five years later, everyone in Germany should have “fiber optics to their homes” and the latest mobile communications standard. The telecommunications industry should also make its contribution: it pledged to invest 50 billion euros in the expansion over the next three years. In regions where economic expansion is not worthwhile, the state will provide subsidies.
Wissing is faced with the dilemma that he must not choke off company investments, but at the same time must ensure that fiber optics also come to regions that are considered unprofitable for the private sector.
In the industry, the plans are met with skepticism even before they are presented. Markus Haas, CEO of the mobile communications group O2 (Telefónica Deutschland), calls for the abandonment of expensive frequency auctions, which have cost operators many billions of euros. “The gigabit strategy must start with the causes of the status quo. Forward-looking frequency planning and allocation practice beyond 2030 is required,” said Haas of the FAZ. This includes a “timely extension of existing frequency usage rights and the provision of new, wide-ranging frequency bands. “Here, the expanding companies need planning security for further investments in the billions,” says Haas. He emphasized that the federal states and local authorities are also responsible for simplifying and accelerating construction projects. Existing bottlenecks there would also have to be addressed.
The industry associations VATM and Breko do not consider the draft to be sufficient to achieve the “very ambitious expansion goals” of the federal government. “So the expansion will take longer than planned,” criticized Norbert Westfal, Breko President and head of the Lower Saxony regional supplier EWE Tel. The associations are particularly critical of the future funding conditions. “There is a risk of taxpayers’ money being wasted,” they warned. The reason is excessive support for fiber optic expansion, even in regions that promise sufficient profitability for private investments. These are a thorn in the side of companies because the state is in direct competition with the private sector. However, Wissing has repeatedly emphasized that he cannot expect rural residents to wait until it is clear which regions are profitable enough. Municipalities should therefore be given the opportunity to promote the expansion earlier.