The Federal Government has sent the federal states and industry representatives the not yet finished draft of the planned modernization of the Telecommunications Act (TKG) for comment. The cabinet has therefore not yet been able to agree on contentious issues such as contract periods for consumer tariffs and the ancillary cost privilege and is holding out the prospect of further changes. Nevertheless, the federal government is pushing for a quick comment and sets a deadline of two weeks.
“No agreement has yet been reached within the federal government on several topics and there is still a clear need for discussion and adjustment,” says the accompanying letter to the federal states, municipalities and associations that heise online is available. “It can therefore be assumed that in the course of the ministerial coordination – possibly also significant – material changes to the draft law will also take place in parts that have not yet been addressed.”
Controversial utility cost privilege
One of the points of contention is the so-called additional cost privilege. Housing companies, homeowners and cable network operators can bill the TV cable connection via the additional rental costs. The lead Federal Ministry of Economics considers this to be an obstacle to competition and, moreover, no longer appropriate. Telekom had also spoken out in favor of abolishing it, whereas other network operators have brought a modified privilege for additional costs into play to support the expansion of fiber optics.
A second point on which the federal government has not yet been able to agree on a common line is the minimum contract terms for telecommunications services. The amendment to the TKG is intended to implement the European code for electronic communication in German law. Among other things, consumer rights are anchored in it. The Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection (BMJV) now wants to enforce that new contracts may run for a maximum of one year and not two years as before.
Lots of open questions
But other central projects of the TKG amendment have not yet been “coordinated”, such as the exact scope of the planned right to fast Internet or the amount of fines if providers do not adhere to the promised performance parameters. The cabinet has not yet been able to agree on information and transparency obligations for providers as well as rules for changing providers. There is also a need for clarification with regard to the powers of the security authorities and the authorities’ radio.
The federal states, municipalities and associations now have two weeks to comment on a rather unfinished draft, the details of which can still change significantly, as the ministry admits. The network operators concerned lack understanding. “We consider the period of 14 days to be far too short and not appropriate to the scope and importance of the law,” says an industry representative to heise online and refers to the changes that can be expected. “As early as the spring, the industry asked the ministries to give the draft law a reasonable period for comment.”
“Considerable need for improvement”
The industry still sees a considerable need for improvement. They reject the shortening of the contract periods and warn of a dampening effect on the fiber optic expansion. The network operators are also a thorn in the side that the TKG amendment to kick-start the expansion of fiber optics also provides regulatory relief for the telecom, criticizes the Association of Telecommunications and Value-Added Services (VATM). At the same time, access to the passive infrastructure of the Telekom – for example the cable ducts – is not implemented consistently.
In the form presented, the TKG threatens “to delay the expansion of fiber optics rather than accelerate it – as planned”, says VATM managing director Jürgen Grützner. “Because in addition to a few improvements, there are unfortunately also significant deteriorations to the detriment of companies and ultimately the entire German economy.” The new regulations tended to favor Telekom. The federal government should “adhere exactly to the EU guidelines for non-resolvable issues,” suggests Grützner. “Under no circumstances should the further deliberations lead to additional burdens for the fiber optics or companies expanding 5G.”