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Global Economy

Fast internet everywhere in eight years

In the coming years, German households are to be supplied with fiber optic connections across the board and mobile communications are to be expanded to the fast 5G standard. This should succeed with the "gigabit strategy" decided by the Federal Cabinet in Berlin.

In a first step, half of all households should be able to book fiber optic connections by 2025. This should be possible across the board by 2030. "We want to catch up on the backlog of the past few years and by 2030 we want to enable fiber optic coverage everywhere where people live, work or travel," said Federal Digital Minister Volker Wissing. The expansion of mobile communications in the 5G standard should also be “everywhere at the highest level”.

In order to achieve this, numerous suggestions are formulated in the strategy paper, many of which, however, only have the character of recommendations, because responsibility often lies with the federal states or municipalities.

Fiber optic cables on wooden poles

For example, fiber optic expansion is to be accelerated by using simpler laying techniques. In some places, the lines are to be hung above ground on wooden poles in order to save time-consuming digging.

Before that, by the end of the year, it should be checked where the need for funding is greatest and where the expansion can also be implemented by the telecommunications companies themselves. "What is unthinkable is that closing white spots is left behind, because we need progress in the area of gigabit expansion everywhere," said Wissing. "And on the other hand, economic expansion must have priority – because we know here that we can make the fastest and most efficient progress."

Countries are being asked to simplify their approval procedures by the end of the year as well. For example, it is proposed that the approval procedures for mobile phone masts that are only temporarily installed in one place should be omitted.

Economy criticizes "unstructured" approach

Criticism from business is primarily sparked by the planned funding policy for fiber optic expansion. At the end of the year, a threshold for funding projects will no longer apply: So far, fiber optic lines can only be laid with state money in areas with transmission speeds below 100 megabits per second. This restriction should be dropped, then funding projects would be possible in much larger areas.

To ensure that projects do not receive unregulated funding, for example in areas where only very few people live, a potential analysis should serve as a guide. However, it should not be a regulation – the countries responsible for the funding projects can also ignore it.

The telecommunications industry is not enthusiastic about this and fears that there could be too many funding projects and that the expansion would ultimately be slower and more expensive, for example because civil engineering companies are overburdened. Subsidized expansion takes two to three times as long as self-financing expansion, warns Stephan Albers from the Breko fiber optics association, for example. David Zimmer from the telecommunications association VATM reacted with disappointment and accused the federal government of an unstructured approach to fiber optic funding.

On the other hand, the Internet sector and industry welcomed the fact that approvals should be granted more quickly in the future.

According to the strategy paper, how the expansion is progressing should be discussed in a new committee: Representatives of the federal and state governments want to meet several times a year and check the progress.

With information from Leonie Schwarzer, ARD capital studio

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