In April 2021, all German citizens were promised the right to fast internet for the first time ever via a new law passed by the Bundestag.
Whilst that sounds great in theory, what does that actually mean in practise? Giving everyone the legal right to fast internet sounds like a blanket statement, but in reality it will likely affect people differently rather than a universal thing.
Does everyone in Germany have fast internet?
Germans have been used to slow internet with pages taking a long time to load and unreliable connections. This promise of faster internet for all should have brought a quicker connection to the people of Germany this summer just passed, with the law forcing an improvement in upload speeds, download speeds and latency.
Prior to this, internet users in Germany were entitled to functional internet access – At a speed of 0.056 mbps. The recent law aimed to significantly increase this minimum speed.
Who will benefit the most from this law change?
To ascertain how much the speed needed to increase, the average download and upload speeds plus latency were calculated.
The highest 20% of internet speeds were not included in the calculation as much of the German population already enjoyed faster internet speeds. The lower 80% had slower connections and would benefit more from the law change.
With this in mind, those who lived in rural areas were more likely to be positively affected by the law change, as many of the more major cities in Germany already had fast internet available to them.
For people who were struggling with an unreliable, slow connection (particularly those in rural areas who notoriously grapple with bad internet connections), a commission to a new provider with relocated broadband access would be investigated.
But even with the law change, will the minimum internet speed be enough?
Faster internet speeds – What about the UK?
In UK law, it is the legal right for every home and business to request a decent, affordable broadband connection.
‘Decent’ is defined as meeting the internet needs of an average family. It has been deemed by previous Ofcom research that a speed of 10mbps (download) is enough to meet these needs, enabling multiple family members to be online at the same time.
Affordability is based on paying no more than £48.50 per month for broadband. Many people pay much less than this for their internet connection per month.
The UK saw the government ensure that everyone in the UK had access to broadband speeds of at least 10Mbps by 2020. This universal high speed internet is delivered by a regulatory body as a Universal Service Obligation.
Post pandemic there has been a huge upsurge in working from home, and people needing strong, reliable, fast internet for business operations at their kitchen table. Think Zoom calls, Teams collaborations, Slack messages and data transfers. That’s a lot more internet traffic than our home networks are used to.
It’s also worth mentioning that in 2022, the average internet download speed is 79.1Mbps. That is significantly faster than the 10Mbps deemed fast enough for the average family home. So whilst the legally mandated minimum is 10Mbps here in the UK, the current average internet speed indicates that this probably needs to be much, much higher. Especially as the European Union has plans for universal broadband of 100Mbps by 2025.
The increase of those working from home also means that the importance of good upload speeds has also increased. Think remote designers needing to download, edit and upload large files, or group video conference calls.
In essence, the majority of households need a strong, fast and reliable internet connection in order to work and play from their homes. The current USO doesn’t meet the average speed of internet use across the UK.
The way we use the internet has changed dramatically over the past couple of years, and we need UK law to reflect this. The pandemic showed the volume of data double almost overnight.
Our home broadband networks need to reflect the increased prevalence of remote working. This need for fast internet on a reliable connection needs to be written in law, and the USO minimum speed increased.