Universal service: the right to fast internet is a long time coming
Berlin Digital politicians had noted one date in the federal government’s calendar in particular: “Regulation for the right to the provision of telecommunications services” was written on the cabinet schedule for this Wednesday. The overview dates from April 1st, and behind the official German lies the long-controversial right to the Internet for everyone and everyone, regardless of whether you live in Berlin, on a Hallig or in the deepest Black Forest.
The so-called universal service would have been one of the first major decisions of the first German digital minister, Volker Wissing (FDP). Would.
Nothing will come of it at first. Time is of the essence. The law, which the old federal government had passed and with which Germany is implementing the European obligation to provide universal service, provides for a clear timetable: According to the Telecommunications Act, the law must be implemented and enforceable by June 1st.
But now the responsible digital ministry said: “On April 27th or May 4th” the necessary regulation should go to the cabinet. However, since the federal government still has to reach “agreement” with the digital committee of the Bundestag and then also with the federal states in the Bundesrat about the set of rules, things are unlikely to happen after June 1st.
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The ordinance is in place, but there is still no agreement within the federal government. Tabea Rößner, Chairwoman of the Digital Committee, warns the government: “Time is running out for the regulation to come into force on June 1st,” she told the Handelsblatt. The Greens politician made it clear that the right to the Internet is “one of the core issues of the Digital Committee”. The specialist politicians therefore wanted to advise the draft “properly”. “That’s why we agreed to a hearing at the last committee meeting. After all, it is about a topic that is very important for people.”
Law on the Internet: Big question about exceptions
With the right to the Internet, everyone in Germany should be able to use the digital world. “Appropriate social and economic participation” should be possible. This does not necessarily include online gaming, but at least includes video conferences for home office or home schooling. Everyone should be able to download at least ten megabits per second with their connection, the delay should be “maximum 150 milliseconds”.
While there was already criticism of the performance criteria, there is now another central question, as it is said in industry circles: Can there be exceptions? According to the Federal Network Agency, which created the ordinance on behalf of the ministry, this should be the case.
According to this, the agency can “exceptionally” approve a lower bandwidth and a higher latency “if the amount of the expected costs of the connection and telecommunications service and geographical features justify this”.
From the point of view of the companies, this exception rule is “mandatory” so that they don’t have to lay a network connection everywhere, explained Sven Knapp, Managing Director of the Federal Association of Broadband Communication. “The regulation creates the possibility that wireless access technologies such as satellite and mobile communications can also be used to implement an Internet connection within the framework of the right to be provided with telecommunications services,” he said.
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The digital politician of the CDU/CSU parliamentary group, Reinhard Brandl, criticized the plans: “In case of doubt, citizens should be satisfied with the basic service with Internet via satellite. That would hit rural areas hard.”
Even the experts from the specialist authority would have considerable risks in the performance of satellite connections, said Brandl. “It has not been tested whether video conferences for home schooling and home office are possible without jerking via satellite connections. After two years of the pandemic, this is untenable for the formulation of a legal claim.”
The Digital Ministry did not want to comment on the details. The Federal Network Agency is working “at full speed on the completion of the draft regulation,” said a spokeswoman
More: 100 days of digital and traffic: Minister Wissing has more problems than solutions