Tech

TKG amendment: right to fast internet is reduced

The right to fast internet promised by the grand coalition will be weaker than initially planned. This results from the new draft bill of the Federal Ministries for Economics as well as for Transport and Digital Infrastructure for the major reform of the Telecommunications Act (TKG), which has been planned for months and which heise online is available.

In principle, according to the hasty initiative, the Federal Network Agency must determine which requirements an Internet access service available to all citizens must meet. According to the first surcharge of the two houses from the spring, it should “particularly take into account the minimum bandwidth used by the majority of consumers in the territory”. In addition, “other national conditions” such as the effects of the specified quality on “incentives for private-sector broadband expansion” and support measures will be taken into account.

According to the new version, the regulatory authority must use the “minimum bandwidth used by at least 80 percent of consumers in Germany” as the main starting point for calculating the speed of the extended universal service, no longer that of over 51 percent of households.

This should have a significant effect on the average bandwidth. According to the Broadband atlas of the Federal Network Agency overall, “the spread of broadband connections with high marketed transmission rates” has “increased significantly” in recent years. Consumers are increasingly asking for connections with transmission rates of at least 30 or 100 Mbit / s.

Nevertheless, there were still around 12.5 million households with bandwidths below 10 to below 30 Mbit / s in 2019. The number of private connections with more than 100 Mbit / s to less than 1 Gbit / s was only 9 million. With 13.4 million households, the largest proportion was between 30 and less than 100 Mbit / s in the middle.

If the Federal Network Agency were to use the average minimum bandwidth of 51 percent of home connections, this would be higher than for over 80 percent of consumers. In the second calculation variant, more households with a low bandwidth are included, who do not have fast access or who cannot afford it.

The planned new variant would be “more people with less bandwidth”, confirms the Duisburg telecommunications economist Torsten Gerpott to heise online. This can be said in concrete terms on the numbers from the current market analysis of the VATM industry association. According to this, an estimated 47 percent of local customers will be traveling with a bandwidth of over 50 Mbit / s by the end of the year. If you take the planned 80 percent of customers into account, the minimum speed would currently be 16 Mbit / s.

According to other statistics from mid-2019 the average internet speed in Germany was just under 23 Mbit / s when downloading and around 9 Mbit / s when uploading. The federal government missed its original goal of making connections with at least 50 Mbit / s available to all households by the end of 2018, at least in principle.

The Federation of German Consumer Organizations (vzbv) had already asked at the beginning of the yearthat “the legally defined minimum bandwidth that must be made available nationwide should increase dynamically”. It must be “continuously adapted to the speed used by the majority of households (at least 50 percent)”. If the bandwidth used by the majority of private users increases, “the demands on the universal service also increase”.

According to the explanatory memorandum for the draft law, the majority threshold is based on a catalog of criteria of the communications committee (COCOM). He pointed out that the term “majority of end customers” should not be defined as 51 percent “in order to avoid far-reaching market distortions”. Instead, the committee spoke out in favor of the 80 percent threshold that has now been built in, “in order to minimize effects on competition”.

According to the ministries, the lowest limit for the requirements for an internet access service remains the EU requirements in the new code for electronic communication. In addition to e-mail, calls and video calls in standard quality, it should also be possible to use social media, search for information, online orders, online banking and electronic government services.

In 2016, the EU Commission assumed that an Internet access service with at least 9.6 Mbit / s would have to be available in 2020, it says. The Federal Network Agency is free to set further quality requirements. A minimum upload rate or a minimum data volume are also conceivable. However, “not every economic participation can be guaranteed via an affordable Internet access service”. The regulatory authority must also regularly adjust the bandwidth to be ensured.

The right to fast Internet has long been a thorn in the side of provider associations. The industry expert Gerpott considers it a pure placebo: By the time the regulator has initiated a corresponding procedure and found and obliged a provider, “a lot of water will have flowed down the Rhine”. The approach would hardly be relevant in practice. It would be more important to use the funding measures for broadband expansion more effectively.


(olb)

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