Pressure is mounting on EU Digital Commissioner Günther Oettinger as he received an incensed letter from a regional minister asking him to intervene and change Germany’s new rules for broadband internet.
Alexander Bonde (Bündnis 90/Die Grünen), minister for rural areas and consumer protection in Oettinger’s home state of Baden-Württemberg, sent the German commissioner a letter last Friday (8 April) blasting the new telecoms regulation. Bonde warned Oettinger that the decision is “for competition and economic reasons highly alarming”.
Oettinger received another complaint on the same day from 13 German MEPs, who detailed their objections to the new telecoms regulation in a three-page brief.
Germany’s telecoms regulator, the Bundesnetzagentur, notified the European Commission last Thursday (7 April) about its decision to allow major operator Deutsche Telekom to exclusively use the controversial vectoring technology on copper wires to provide high speed broadband connections in some areas.
Competing companies are up in arms about the decision, which they claim will prevent them from servicing a portion of German households.
The Commission has one month to respond to the German regulator. Smaller telecoms operators are hoping it will raise “serious doubts” and open an inquiry into the decision.
Bonde refuted the claim that Deutsche Telekom will improve high-speed internet access in Germany.
“The digital divide will become deeper in this situation. Copper cable has finally reached its limits, especially in rural areas,” he wrote.
Bonde argued that broadband connections in the Black Forest can only be improved if new fibre optic cable networks are built. Critics argue the Bundesnetzagentur’s decision to give Deutsche Telekom the exclusive right to use vectoring in some areas would delay companies from building new fibre networks.
German MEPs from the EPP and S&D groups wrote in their letter that the regulation would create “huge disadvantages” for areas with poor broadband service.
In its 2016 scoring of EU countries, the European Commission ranked Germany below average on fast broadband services, at spot 21 out of 28 member states.
The European Commission announced as part of its digital single market plans that it would propose telecoms legislation in 2016, likely after the summer. The Commission's public consultation on regulation of the telecoms sector ended in December 2015.
The upcoming reform is expected to affect investment in telecoms networks, access to networks and competition with internet services like Skype and Whatsapp. Big incumbent telecoms companies argue those services aren't regulated as rigorously--and they demand a 'level playing field'.
In November 2015, the German national telecoms regulator approved a request by Deutsche Telekom to use the controversial vectoring technology to deliver highspeed broadband, which competing companies say will crowd out their access to networks. The European Commission was notified about the decision on 7 April 2016, and will then issue its own decision about whether the deal breaks EU law.
- 7 April 2016: Bundesnetzagentur notified European Commission about its decision to allow vectoring. The Commission has one month to respond with its own decision.
- German Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy: German position on the EU telecoms review (March 2016)
- European Commission: results from public consultation on the telecoms framework review (March 2016)
- European Commission: overview of telecoms rules