Kay Ruge, Deputy General Manager of the German District Association, misses a turning point in the repair and expansion of essential infrastructure. The federal government has recognized that fiber optics are needed across the board, the lawyer explained on Tuesday at the gigabit strategy topic of the authorities’ mirror. But there is an implementation problem. Germany has not only built up a “striking deficit over the years” when it comes to high-speed Internet. The consequences are also visible on the railways, roads and the power grid: “We have an infrastructure failure.”
In the case of fiber optics, Ruge advocates in principle self-financing expansion, which should progress more quickly. “The municipalities do not want to be network operators,” he assured. “We only get involved because we see deficits.” Cities and municipalities would need fiber optics everywhere just for renewable energies. They are jointly responsible for this. In order to make progress with broadband expansion, the district representative believes that, in addition to state funding, standardized, reusable products and open access are necessary, i.e. open access to fiber optics for competitors.
The colleagues have understood that the most comprehensive expansion possible in municipalities should not be limited to the centers of settlements, emphasized Jürgen Grützner, Managing Director of the Association of Providers of Telecommunications and Value-Added Services (VATM). In every town there are houses at the end of every street where cables cannot be laid economically and copper-based VDSL does not help either: “10 to 15 percent remain.” Here it is important not to let the excavators drive away again, but to clear the last few meters with an accelerated support program (“Superfast Lane”). The EU Commission sees no competition problems with such an approach.
“We’re building faster than ever,” Grützner countered the Federal Statistical Office’s assessment that Germany is still not a fiberglass country. Even high costs and the increasing interest burden have not slowed down investments so far. However, all communities at once could not be fully supplied “next year”. It is regrettable that an agreement on “any prioritization” was not possible. So there is now “a bit of the Wild West” because every mayor wants to be the first.
“The starting point must not satisfy us yet,” but it is “not disastrous either,” said Susanne Ding, sub-department head in the Federal Ministry for Digital Affairs and Transport. Around a quarter of all German households can book fiber optics. “But not everyone does that,” and you have to talk about that too. In any case, digitization will not be “deprioritized” by politicians: “Despite the most difficult budget negotiations, we will probably be able to maintain a high level of funding of three billion euros.” In addition, the expansion will be accelerated by new approval fictions similar to the construction of mobile phone masts.
“The Germans are very rational,” said Walter Fischedick, Head of Digitization at the Hessian State Chancellery, referring to the ultimately decisive end customer. You asked yourself: “What do I pay for broadband, what does fiber optics cost” and what added value does it offer? You can also get Netflix with 100 MBit/s quite well. New applications such as virtual reality, which will increase bandwidth requirements, are therefore important.
E-Government braucht Know-How
Grützner, on the other hand, sees e-government services as the driver, where the Federal Republic lags behind particularly badly. With the planned online access law 2.0, quantitative requirements would now even be deleted instead of stepping on the gas. The digitization of administration also offers the opportunity to put analogue processes to the test and to create a “new world”.
“Digitization costs know-how” that does not fall from the sky, Ruge tried to defend the municipalities. A district administration cannot constantly take on new tasks. “Real detoxification to speed up the process” and to reduce the testing effort are crucial. Fischedick agreed: “We need specialists, young people who go into the STEM field.” If nothing changes here, it would pose a major threat to the business location.
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