Broadband funding: Only 570 million out of 11 billion euros paid out

The Federal Government has published new figures for its federal broadband expansion program launched in 2015. Accordingly, a total of around eleven billion euros are available in the “Digital Infrastructure” special fund. The Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure has paid out just under 570 million euros in the past three and a half years.

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A good 188 million euros went to project operators in the first half of 2020, one is now published The government’s response to a request from the Greens in the Bundestag. In 2019 it was over 260 million euros, in 2018 around 103 million, in the previous year only around 12 million. 500 million euros went into concrete construction measures, 70 million went to consultants. Especially in the early days of the program, the proportion of consultants was significantly larger.

Around 364 million euros went to project promoters with a model that municipalities and counties want to use to close the “profitability gap” of a private network operator who is building a broadband network in a financially unattractive area. Almost 134 million euros have been used for the alternative operator model. This is intended to enable cities and municipalities to build their own network infrastructures such as fiber optic lines and lease them to commercial providers.

Funding notices have already committed EUR 6.6 billion. The delays in payment are due, among other things, to the long time that elapses between the first application and the start of construction. The construction work itself and other services are also time-consuming. Payment is only made when a project has been completed. For many recent initiatives, for example in schools, hospitals, commercial areas and ports, the transport department has so far not received any funds.

91 projects have waived the funding that has already been approved and will therefore not make use of their provisional notification of funding. The district of Cham in the Upper Palatinate thus lapsed almost 25 million euros, the broadband service association in the Plön district a good eleven and the Rohrbach community over ten million euros. The reasons for this are “different,” explains the government. There is “change to state funding” or a project could be carried out by the participating telecommunications companies.

Some municipalities may also find it difficult to find companies with the appropriate know-how and free capacities. The government did not see a general bottleneck in civil engineering in 2018. The green faction vice Oliver Krischer estimates “that at the end of the funding program 30 to 40 percent of the municipalities will not spend the approved money”.

At the end of 2019, the availability of fiber optic connections for apartment buildings and apartments (“FTTB / H”) in Germany was around 12 percent, the Ministry of Transport still reports. This makes it clear “that the efforts of the federal and state governments as well as the expanding network operators are having an effect”. The privately realized and funded glass fiber expansion projects that are currently being planned will continuously improve the quota in the coming years.

“Incidentally, a low rate of fiber optic connections is not synonymous with an undersupply of gigabit lines,” the government writes. By upgrading the transmission standard to DOCSIS 3.1, the cable networks that are widespread in Germany enable gigabit-capable bandwidths “without extensive civil engineering resources being necessary”. This alone could “meet increasing needs for around two thirds of all local households, while at the same time further increasing the fiberglass share”.


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