The Bundesrat will probably not agree to the regulations for the right to fast internet planned by the federal government. In particular, the federal states consider the minimum speed for Internet connections provided therein to be too low.
In the consumer protection committee, the representatives of the federal states, with one abstention from Schleswig-Holstein, spoke out in favor of a speed three times higher than that provided for in the regulation of the Federal Network Agency. Households with Internet access of less than 30 megabits per second could contact the network agency to request faster access. So far, the draft regulation only provides for ten megabits.
The country representatives on the committee also consider the minimum requirement for the upload to be too low and are asking for twice as much instead of 1.7 megabits per second.
The Federal Council’s Transport Committee is even demanding an increase to 30.8 megabits (Mbit/s) for downloads and 5.2 megabits for uploads, as provided for in Lower Saxony’s application, which is supported by seven federal states. Four federal states abstained in the committee and five spoke out against it. The results of the surveys in the committees are available to WELT.
This should make it difficult to get the ordinance presented by the network agency in this form through the Federal Council, which was originally intended for the meeting on June 10th. This means that politicians have already missed the deadline for the ordinance to come into force on June 1, as stipulated in the Telecommunications Act (TKG). The federal cabinet has already passed the ordinance, and the Digital Committee of the Bundestag has also approved it. As the last hurdle, the Bundesrat must now agree.
“The initial download rate of 10 Mbit/s and an upload rate of 1.7 Mbit/s specified in the regulation for the Internet access service do not meet today’s requirements,” says the justification of the consumer protection committee.
As experience during the corona pandemic has shown, when determining the data rates for downloading and uploading, both single use and parallel use scenarios in the same household must be taken into account. “In multi-person households with parallel use of a service, however, the bandwidth for the individual users in the household is reduced.”
The justification of the transport committee describes the requirements of the ordinance as “underambitious and not up to date”. They also hope to create an incentive for telecommunications companies with higher values so that they do not leave any supply gaps when expanding the network, which is referred to in the industry as “cherry picking”. “Because the telecommunications industry has to close these gaps later at its own expense,” the statement said.
In fact, the network agency can instruct companies in the future to lay a line to those households where the minimum bandwidth is not available. It is difficult to estimate the number of households that will enforce minimum bandwidth access in the future. With the increase in the minimum values, the number increases, of course.
At the beginning of the month, the federal government responded to a small question from the CDU/CSU parliamentary group with statistics according to which 96 percent of DSL households had access of at least ten megabits per second. However, if you set the value to at least 30 megabits, it is only 91 percent of households. Around four million households would therefore be below that.
For the telecommunications companies, this can mean a lot of effort and can be expensive. Deutsche Telekom reports on remote farms whose connection would cost up to 50,000 euros. It would be conceivable to use Internet connections via satellite there. The specified bandwidths could be achieved in this way.
However, not the data delay of 150 milliseconds referred to as latency, which is also the maximum limit in the regulation. This is the time it takes for a network to respond to a command, such as going to a website, before loading begins.
The way to the satellite and back is simply too far for that. Operators such as Eutelsat, Astra and Viasat would therefore not be usable. Elon Musk’s Starlink satellite internet service falls below these 150 milliseconds because its satellites don’t fly as high. But the service is expensive with a monthly fee of 99 euros. Amazon is currently building competition with low-Earth satellites, but it may be a few years before this Kuiper system is operational.
The Federal Network Agency chose a wording in its ordinance that nevertheless allows the use of satellite Internet in individual cases. Accordingly, the Internet access services would have to meet the corresponding minimum requirements “regularly”. This would allow exceptions. But the Federal Council’s consumer protection committee is now calling for this word to be deleted from the regulation.
“Should the federal states prevail with their demands, it would be the end of the gigabit targets of the federal government,” said Sven Knapp, regulatory expert and head of the capital office of the broadband association Breko, to WELT. “Companies would be forced to change their existing expansion plans in order to connect individual households all over Germany.” This would further exacerbate the problem of the already scarce construction capacities and lead to a drastic slowdown in the pace of expansion.
Breko accuses the federal states of complicity in the current situation. “Obviously, the countries with the high requirements are trying to cover up their omissions in the subsidized broadband expansion afterwards.”
For six years it has been possible to supply connections that do not have a supply of at least 30 megabits per second with fast Internet with the help of the federal broadband support program. However, many federal states deliberately did not include all underserved households in the subsidy. “These political mistakes should now be passed on to the companies.”
The regulation of the network agency has already met with criticism in many places. For example, the Federal Association of Consumer Organizations called for a significantly higher Internet speed than planned. In fact, the federal government itself does not speak of the “right to fast internet”, but of a “basic supply to ensure digital participation”.
The Federal Network Agency also seems to suspect that a minimum requirement of ten megabits per second may be too low. According to the draft regulation, the values are an “initial definition” and therefore only a beginning. They should be checked annually and adjusted if necessary.
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