By the end of September, the federal government had paid out around 1.5 billion euros or 12.5 percent of the 12 billion euros earmarked for the broadband funding program. This emerges from the response of the federal government to a request from the FDP parliamentary group. Around 9.3 billion euros or around 75 percent of the funds are at least already committed, i.e. firmly planned for ongoing expansion initiatives. According to the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI), a total of around 714,000 subsidized connections have been implemented.
Funding continues to flow slowly, even if progress has been made: In July 2020, the BMVI said it had paid out just under 570 million euros from the “digital infrastructure” special fund over the past three and a half years. At that time, 6.6 billion euros were bound by funding notices. In 2018, the expenditures for actually implemented projects were even in the per mille range.
8 billion approved
Funding of around 8.4 billion euros has been approved for expansion projects in the areas of FTTB (Fiber to the Building) and FTTH (Fiber to the Home), writes the government. The funds released and not yet used would also be available for further projects “appropriately distributed in the current and the coming financial years”.
Since a large part of the funds is only requested well after the connections have been completed, the outflow does not adequately reflect the progress already made in expanding the network, explains the BMVI. According to initial surveys, around 714,000 connections – and thus a good quarter of the promoted initiatives – have already been completed. A total of 2.7 million connections for households, companies, schools and hospitals would be realized with the funding, of which around 11,300 would be schools.
The Federal Government believes that Germany is “on a dynamic path” both in terms of broadband expansion overall and in terms of the development of FTTB / H connections. According to the broadband atlas, at the end of 2020 59.2 percent of the around 41.5 million households in this country would have had access to gigabit-enabled connections. This corresponds to an increase of 13.2 million since the end of 2018.
According to a study by the FTTH Council Europe in May, Germany also recorded the third largest increase in this area among EU member states and Great Britain as well as in all European countries with 2.7 million new FTTB / H connections between September 2019 and September 2020 the BMVI.
Bureaucracy hinders complicated procedures
The slow progress in broadband expansion “has fatal consequences for our country,” criticized the FDP in its preliminary remark. The funding process as a whole is far too time-consuming and complicated, and the approval of several downstream authorities is required. Bureaucratic hurdles slowed down the approval process considerably.
The federal government rejects the allegations. The Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure had already extensively amended the program in 2018, simplifying the funding procedures and reducing the bureaucracy. Notification and reporting obligations have been “reduced to a necessary minimum”. However, “the availability of scarce planning and construction capacities” is also decisive for the implementation time.
The numbers speak for a “fundamental change in funding policy”, says Stephan Albers, managing director of the Federal Association of Broadband Communication (Breko). So far, the federal government has acted according to the principle “a lot helps a lot”, but this does not lead to an acceleration of the expansion. Rather, the subsidized expansion competes with other projects for the scarce civil engineering and planning capacities. In future, tax money should only be used “where there is no economic potential”.