Germany passes law giving everyone the right to fast internet

Germany passes law giving everyone the right to fast internet

A new reform passed by the Bundestag promises all citizens in Germany the right to fast internet, for the first time ever. But what does that mean in practice? Unfortunately, the new law will not affect everyone equally. 

Fast internet for everybody in Germany?

Long loading times and shaky connections are an everyday reality in the federal republic. But for some people in Germany, the internet should become faster in future. The Bundestag has this week passed a draft law that would prescribe minimum speed requirements for uploads, downloads and latency from mid-2022. The Federal Council still needs to give its approval. 

As it currently stands, consumers in Germany only have an entitlement to “functional” internet access at a speed of 56 kilobits (0,056 megabits) per second. This minimum speed is now set to be increased significantly. 

Law change likely to affect rural internet users primarily

However, exactly how fast internet speeds will have to be in future still remains unclear, because the new law does not contain a specific figure. Rather, a legally-binding lower limit still needs to be calculated - probably by the Federal Network Agency - and then published within the next few months. 

The calculation will take into account average download and upload speeds, as well as the delay in data transmission (latency). The top 20 percent of the population with the best internet speeds will be excluded from the calculation, and an average determined from the remaining 80 percent with slower connections. According to estimates, the lower limit is likely to be in the double-digit megabits per second range, around 20 Mbit. 

If this were the case, it would mean that the law change would likely only affect people who live in rural areas, since “better” internet connections are largely already available in larger cities in Germany. Anyone with shaky internet connections would be obliged to complain to the Federal Network Agency, who would then investigate and, if necessary, commission a provider to relocate broadband access. 

Law change criticised as “unambitious”

Figures within mobile communications and internet services have therefore responded critically to the law change. In a letter to members of the Bundestag, the industry association Anga warned that larger internet expansion projects could be delayed because the focus would now have to be on “particularly poorly supplied individual locations.” 

Criticism also came from opposition parties. According to Anke Domscheit-Berg, network policy spokesperson for the Left, the proposed law falls far too short. “Such a lower limit in the low double-digit megabit range is completely unambitious and out of date,” she said.



Abi Carter

Abi studied History & German at the University of Manchester. She has since worked as a writer, editor and content marketeer, but still has a soft spot for museums, castles...

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