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Network operator: TKG amendment “important boost” for FTTH, but with a “downer”

The modernization of the Telecommunications Act (TKG) decided by the Bundestag is received with mixed feelings in the industry. The network operators are particularly skeptical of the “right to the Internet” enshrined in the law. The solution found by the legislature for the controversial “additional cost privilege” does not make everyone happy. The fact that Federal Justice Minister Christine Lambrecht (SPD) could not prevail with her ideas about contract terms, however, is welcomed by everyone.

On Thursday morning, the Bundestag passed the TKG reform, which had been hard-fought for months, against the votes of the opposition. The core element is a right to modern, fast Internet access, with which Internet access is elevated to a universal service. The minimum bandwidth for this should be checked and adjusted at regular intervals. The costs for enforceable connections are to be paid from one pot, into which the network operators pay, but for which messenger services such as Whatsapp or Signal could also be made responsible.

The association of providers of telecommunications and value-added services (VATM) makes EU legal concerns apply. With regard to the rapid expansion of fiber optics, the project is also not sensible. “With such a legal claim, excavators can neither be multiplied nor dig faster as a result,” says VATM boss Jürgen Grützner. “In the future, it will have to be about supplying entire locations with fiber optics and not just individual houses.”

The Federal Association of Broadband Communication (Breko) is also critical of the right to fast Internet. “The universal service is not an expansion accelerator,” says Breko boss Stephan Albers. “The self-commercial expansion, flanked by a prudent incentive and subsidy policy, brings us to our goal faster than any state expansion obligation that binds the already scarce civil engineering capacities.”

With regard to the financing of the right to high-speed Internet, the Federal Association of Glass Fiber (Buglas) warns of unjust burdens, especially for regional providers. Companies would have to “contribute to the expansion costs in other areas in which they are not active at all because of a business decision,” explains Buglas boss Wolfgang Heer. “Here, on the one hand, a sense of proportion should be maintained and the previous regulation should continue to be applied, which only uses supraregional providers for financing.”

With the new TKG, the heavily controversial parting with the additional cost privilege is a done deal. In particular, the cable network operators and the housing industry had argued that the costs of a connection could continue to be passed on to the ancillary costs of rent. The ability to pay for the existing cable connections will now be abolished in mid-2024. However, new fiber optic infrastructure in buildings should in future be able to be passed on to ancillary costs with a maximum of 5 euros for five years in order to stimulate the FTTH expansion.

“Now the practice has to show whether this regulation can actually create incentives for an expansion”, the president of the cable network operator association Anga, Thomas Braun, is skeptical. “The short transition period for the existing building in view of ongoing contracts endangers the current well-functioning supply in the buildings. The right of termination is a one-sided shift of burden on the network operator, for which there is no reason and which runs counter to the principle of fair conditions between contracting parties.”

“Today the Bundestag gave the fiber optic expansion an enormously important boost,” said Buglas boss Heer, more optimistic. “The fundamentally correct instrument of apportionability gives the expanding company the necessary planning security.” Breko also expects that the new regulation of the apportionment capacity will create a strong incentive for the expansion of fiber optics in apartment buildings. “The only downer is that the existing rules on apportionability will not end until the end of June 2024,” says Albers. “We would have liked a much shorter transition period here.”

With the amendment to the TKG, the European Telecommunications Code is to be implemented in German law. Actually, that should have happened a long time ago. The fact that the federal government submitted the comprehensive draft so late was largely due to a dispute between the ministries involved. Federal Justice Minister Christine Lambrecht (SPD) had long tried to write extended consumer rights into the law. The network operators should be obliged to offer a one-year contract in addition to the usual two-year contracts.

The branch is relieved by the bank that Lambrecht was not able to assert itself. “We welcome that very much,” said Anga President Braun. For VATM boss Grützner, the industry is already meeting these requirements: “The market has long been offering a range of tariffs that are optimally tailored to customer needs. The one-month notice period that will apply in the future after the initial term of a contract will provide even more flexibility.”

Overall, the VATM welcomes the “recognizable efforts to get the approval bureaucracy under control and to accelerate long process times”. However, it remains to be seen whether the responsible states and municipalities will implement this. “The new regulations for fiber optic expansion and its financing through a fiber optic provision fee are in part very complex,” summarizes Grützner. “In addition, the law contains many new consumer protection requirements with a high level of complexity and depth of detail, which not only creates significantly more bureaucracy, but is often not even in the interests of customers.”


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