With 39 votes out of a total of 69, the Federal Council approved the long controversial reform of the Telecommunications Act (TKG) on Friday. The initiative is intended to give companies more incentives for rapid and comprehensive fiber optic expansion. In addition, there is a right to “fast” Internet, which is to take effect six months after the amendment comes into force. It is a general concern of the legislature to implement the EU code for electronic communication into national law with a delay.
Award procedure for frequencies
The “Telecommunications Modernization Act” almost had to turn another round in the mediation committee of the Bundestag and Bundesrat. The economic committee of the regional chamber had recommended calling this body. He criticized the vague requirement to close dead spots “if possible” by 2026. The committee also complained that the Bundestag resolution adopted the focus on the auction process for the award of mobile radio frequencies, which was laid down in the previous TKG, without considering alternative award models.
In the plenary, however, there was no majority in favor of untying the several hundred pages long package again. However, the federal government issued a declaration in which it promised an “open-ended selection” of the award procedure for frequencies. Further steps are to be taken with the ongoing parliamentary procedure for the Telecommunication-Telemedia-Data Protection Act (TTDSG).
Before that, the European law expert Christian König had stated in an expert opinion for Telefónica that the preferential parking at auctions should not be compatible with EU law. The network operator therefore warned that the government would have to keep its promise in the coming months in order to ensure “reliability and predictability” for the industry.
Allocation of the cable fees to the tenant
For the entitlement to a nationwide fixed network, the Federal Network Agency must first define the requirements. It should use the minimum bandwidth used by at least 80 percent of consumers in Germany as well as the upload rate and the time delay (latency) that is important for live streams and online games. The Bundestag also determined that this universal service includes regular home office applications, calls and video calls as well as the possibility of using social media. This performance should initially be “achieved by a 30 Mbit product”. Messenger services also have to pay into the pot that pays for the Internet for everyone.
The possibility for landlords to pass the TV cable fees on to the tenant is to be eliminated in mid-2024. As a replacement, there is a capped utility cost privilege geared towards high-speed access: If a landlord commissions a provider to expand the building infrastructure with fiber optics, he can allocate the costs to the utility bill. The amount may not exceed five euros per month and is usually limited to five years.
The Federal Council asks the federal government to check herewhether this clause “has a direct or indirect negative impact on the development and affordability of rents in Germany”. According to the federal states, the passage also “leads to a significant unequal treatment of network operators associated with the housing industry and other third parties”, since they are in fact denied the use of a financing model provided for in the TKG.
In order to guarantee LTE continuously and without interruption on all federal, country and district roads as well as on all rail lines, local roaming or the shared use of passive or active infrastructures for radio frequencies should be used “where there is extremely incomplete or no access at all Networks and services is recorded “. The Federal Council here expresses its concern, that this requirement is unlikely to be compatible with the EU code. Accordingly, such instruments would have to be limited to a narrowly defined area.
“Declaration of bankruptcy” for civil rights
The Bundestag expanded the monitoring requirements already contained in the TKG and took over parts of “Seehofer’s List”. The parliament also added the new rules on stock data information as well as the old ones on data retention. The latter are currently suspended due to decisions by administrative courts. The eco association of the Internet industry criticized this step as a “declaration of bankruptcy” for civil rights. The Federal Council is also ignoring the constant case law of the European Court of Justice (ECJ).
The broadband association Breko was relieved “that the legislative procedure, which is so important for the further expansion of fiber optics, has now been successfully brought to an end after a long attempt.” He particularly welcomes the “strong incentive for fiber optic expansion in apartment buildings” with the new apportionment capability. In the area of approval procedures, the use of alternative laying methods and the extended universal service, however, the legislature missed the great opportunity to “finally release the existing brakes”.
End device freedom
Despite some points of criticism, the Buglas fiber optic association also expects the law to give a boost to “future-proof fiber optic networks” with “fiber to the building / home”. The envisaged implementation deadline for requirements for consumer protection and documentation is too short given the necessary conversion of IT systems. The executive and legislative branches would also have to return to significantly more transparency, more effective industry participation and longer comment and evaluation periods.
In principle, the Association of Telecommunications Terminal Manufacturers (VTKE) sees the amendment as a free choice of terminal. From the point of view of the manufacturers of routers and telephone systems, the Federal Network Agency must implement this provision better: “In particular, providers of fiber optic connections do not adhere to the legal requirements and do not allow their own end devices at the passive network termination point.” There are no technical reasons to make use of the option newly included in the law – to allow exceptions to this principle. The freedom of end devices should not be de facto abolished again.