German Telecommunications Act: eco Criticises Tight Deadline and Lack of Coordination in Planned Reform of Act

With the presentation of a joint draft, the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs (BMWi) and the German Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI) are seeking to fundamentally reform the Telecommunications Act (TKG) and to thereby transpose the European Code for Electronic Communications within this legislative term. eco – Association of the Internet Industry is deeply critical of the fact that only a 14-day period has been granted for positions on the discussion draft of 6 November; a draft which amounts to approximately 430 pages and which features substantial gaps.

Oliver Süme, Chair of the eco board, says:

“The TKG amendment will lead to considerable changes in the regulatory framework in the field of telecommunications and, as such, will not only have an influence on gigabit network expansion, but also on the digital transformation in Germany and Europe. This being the case, I think it would be a serious mistake for politicians to try to push through such an act – which is of central importance for the entire telecommunications industry – in a fast-track process. While in principle we welcome the fact that the politicians are involving the relevant industry associations in the procedure, what is really needed are deadlines which ensure a meaningful involvement in the consultation process, allowing associations to respond appropriately. What’s very regrettable is that the clear inconsistencies in the coordination between the ministries involved are now happening at the expense of the affected companies. eco urgently appeals to all political players to refrain from including this draft legislation as part of strategic and tactical manoeuvring connected with the election campaign.”

The TKG amendment is subject to approval by the Bundesrat (German Federal Council). In addition, amendments to the German Telecommunications Act for the transposition of European legal frameworks have repeatedly been referred to an arbitration committee between the Bundesrat and the Bundestag (German Parliament), a referral which is once more likely to take place. As such, the challenge of arriving at a resolution in this legislative term is highly unlikely to be overcome. In a similar vein, the transposition deadline set by the EU for the end of 2020 can, one way or another, no longer be met.

If agreement on the disputed points – such as contract periods and security requirements – is not reached in the near future, and if it’s therefore not possible to set a reasonable deadline for comments, it would make more sense to have the legislative draft narrowed down to the undisputed contents – such as incentives for the expansion of gigabit-capable networks, the acceleration of construction procedures, and making funding procedures more effective – in order to conclude the legislative procedure before the end of this legislative term.

RA Oliver J. Süme 2