There is still a lot of catching up to do in Germany when it comes to providing high-speed Internet access everywhere. This emerges from a response from the Federal Government to a request from the Greens in the Bundestag parliamentary group about the federal funding program broadband expansion, which is available to the German Press Agency.
The managing director of the Association of Cities and Municipalities, Gerd Landsberg, told the dpa: “Especially in the rural regions, we are still a long way from a nationwide minimum supply, as was already announced for the end of 2018.” The funding had to be quicker and easier.
As can be seen from the Federal Government’s response, as of mid-June, projects totaling around 6.5 billion euros in funding grants have been approved in the federal funding program since mid-2015 – 498 million euros have therefore been paid out. In addition, there were 68 million euros for “consulting services”.
In 395 out of 921 approval notices for municipalities, there was a tender with a positive result. This means that a construction company was found that was awarded the contract for the respective project. The Greens also see the shortage of skilled workers as a reason.
The federal government’s goal is to build up gigabit networks across Germany by 2025. To a large extent, the proceeds from the auction of radio frequencies will also be used to finance the bill. The federal funding program provides funds of around 11 billion euros. Municipalities have to take a 10 percent share. In the case of financially weak cities and municipalities, a takeover by the states is possible.
A sobering result
The Greens Bundestag MEP Margit Stumpp, an expert in digital infrastructure, spoke of a sobering result in view of the government’s statements on the status of the funding program. The funding procedures are tough, the municipalities are facing major challenges. In addition, it happens too often that municipalities give back their funding. According to the current figures, 91 municipalities have withdrawn the approved federal funding. There are many reasons, but they are often connected with Deutsche Telekom’s plan changes. In general, approval procedures were too slow, there was a lack of construction capacity and the acceptance of “innovative installation techniques” that could speed up construction.
Greens faction vice Oliver Krischer spoke of a “tragedy”. Especially in Corona times it became clear how important fast internet connections are in the home office. “Because little has happened here since 2015, many rural users had jerky pictures even during video conferences or a total failure.”
Landsberg, general manager of the German Association of Cities and Municipalities, told the dpa that at the end of 2019 every tenth household in Germany did not yet have a fast internet connection. In rural areas, almost 30 percent of households do not yet have a fast network. “This is also unacceptable with regard to the equivalence of living conditions. The corona pandemic has shown that we need a powerful digital infrastructure across the country to make home office or home schooling possible. A digital split between well-supplied metropolitan areas and underserved regions should no longer exist in 2020. “
Funds are being increased
It is to be welcomed that the Federal Government has significantly increased the funds for the promotion of broadband expansion in recent years. “Even if not all funds have been called up, this does not mean that the municipalities do not need the funds.” The full payment of the funds will only take place after the measures have been completed, so that the outflow of funds is a “distorting snapshot”, so Landsberg. More than half of the funding has already been applied for and tied up, and expansion plans are already underway in numerous cities, municipalities and districts.
“Nevertheless, there are still some hurdles, especially when it comes to the bureaucratic requirements of the funding programs. Funding must be quicker and easier, ”said Landsberg. “In order to accelerate the broadband expansion and to provide Germany with good coverage across the board, the commitment of private companies is also necessary. They are challenged to assume their responsibility for Germany as a business location. “
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