German ICT industry issues mixed reactions to govt coalition agreement

Thursday 8 February 2018 | 16:04 CET | News

German industry associations have had mixed reactions to the digital policies contained in the coalition agreement reached 07 February between Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative CDU and the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) as part of their ongoing negotiations to form a new government.

While ICT associations said the final agreement marked a significant improvement over earlier drafts by giving digital issues a more prominent role, some like the internet association Eco warned the agreement still lacks an "overall concept" for Germany’s digital transformation and called for subsequent improvements for these proposals.

Eco as well as other industry associations like the VATM, Buglas, Breko and Bitkom all welcomed the incoming government’s plan to complete its nationwide gigabit roll-out by 2025, but criticized that the EUR 10-12 billion fund to subsidize this project will be financed by network operators themselves via frequency auctions. Doing so would deprive operators of funds needed for future innovations based on 5G, warned Bitkom.

Still, the BVDW, the association for the digital economy, cautioned that even a fund of up to EUR 12 billion would not be enough given that some estimates say up to EUR 80 billion will be required to set up nationwide broadband networks. Breko, meanwhile, criticized that the wording in the agreement on the broadband roll-out does not rule out the possibility of public money being used to support copper-based projects like vectoring or super vectoring going forward.

Bitkom also criticized that the proposal to enact a law by 2025 guaranteeing a right to high-speed internet has already created "a high level of uncertainty" among companies investing in broadband, while Eco warned that such a demand could overwhelm SMEs in the sector. Buglas further criticized that such a universal service requirement would lead to a misallocation of firms’ resources toward unprofitable projects as well as the creation of a "bureaucratic monster" under the Federal Network Agency to oversee this law’s practical implementation.

Eco also criticized that the agreement doesn’t provide for the establishment of a stand-alone ministry for digital affairs, citing this as evidence that the coalitions partners still fail to recognize the "strategic importance" of digitisation for the German economy and society.

The BVDW also criticized that the agreement is "unclear and contradictory" in terms of data politics and fails to balance the needs of businesses and consumers with regards to the EU’s ongoing reform of the ePrivacy directive.

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