Digitization: Simply having the right to fast internet is not enough

There is actually nothing more to discuss about this: fast internet is as much a part of life as water and electricity. So far, however, Germany has not excelled. It is therefore good that the right to do so will come into force soon, as the government has promised. However, the fact that one now has to argue about what fast Internet actually is shows how thoroughly Germany has overslept this technological step. Ten megabits per second (Mbit/s) when downloading and only 1.7 Mbit/s when uploading, as proposed by the Federal Network Agency, is really just an absolute minimum limit. When it comes to distance learning or working from home, you will immediately hit the limit. But it’s better than no internet.

Because the fact remains: the mistakes of the past have been made, the deficit cannot be made up in the short term. It is therefore necessary to use a sense of proportion to decide how to proceed. Raising the claim to 30 Mbit/s, as requested by the federal states, sounds good and would actually be the better lower limit. But that would create a huge army of claimants. But what use is a legal claim that only exists on paper? Because construction crews who lay the necessary cables are hard to come by these days. The parties involved should therefore come to a compromise that would, for example, allow very remote farmsteads to be supplied via satellite or radio for a transitional period.

It’s not just about technology

However, the technology is only one aspect when it comes to the (fast) Internet. According to the Federal Statistical Office, around 3.8 million people between the ages of 16 and 74 still live in Germany without a network. And in most cases, it’s not because their house isn’t connected. Most of the nonliners are older people who either don’t see the benefit, are in poor financial shape, or are afraid they won’t be able to use the technology or become victims of cybercriminals. In order to change that, low-threshold and local offers are needed – also because those who do not have online access are increasingly being excluded from participating in public life.

The digital divide doesn’t only run between onliners and nonliners. It also opens up between those who are not good at dealing with the flood of information and the temptations of the Internet. People have to learn that, they need standards to be able to judge what is to be classified and how. And they have to learn that switching off is also part of it. All this is an educational mission, and no small one.

More speed, please

But here, too, Germany lags behind. The fragmented educational system with its distributed responsibilities at municipal, state and federal level is only slowly getting going. It often depends on whether a municipality has the money to properly equip its schools. Sometimes the money would be there too, but there is a lack of skilled workers to keep the entire digital zoo – from the whiteboard to the tablet – in good shape. Actually, every school needs at least one digital caretaker. Most of the time, however, it is dedicated teachers who also maintain the school IT. But it’s a shame that there are always schools that have no internet access or only inadequate internet access. Just as it’s a shame, by the way, that some schools have rain through their roofs and horrible toilets.

So the pace has to increase. What would help a lot would be less bureaucracy. Fiber optic cables, for example, can be installed fairly quickly if you bury them a little shallower. So far, however, the regulations have often contradicted this. The companies also have to submit applications to the authorities in file folders, approvals take a long time, although it is often about standard projects such as radio masts. So if the government wants to move forward, it needs more than just a right to fast internet. The conditions must also be created so that it can be redeemed. And for as many people as possible.

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