RS2: Germany

Powerhouse Germany badly trailing rivals in broadband

The article “Powerhouse Germany badly trailing rivals in broadband” talks about the growing digital divide in Germany due to the weak digital infrastructure in the country. The article starts off by giving the example of Christian Grobmeier, a German software developer who had a hard time finding a home with a decent internet connection in the Bavarian countryside. The internet connection would allow him to conduct everyday business activities like Skype meetings and allow him to do his job efficiently. According to the writer, Grobmeier is not alone. The writer then goes on to explain how Germany, considered an export powerhouse, is falling behind in providing digital infrastructure. According to the writer the country has ‘failed to replace infrastructure left over from a different era of telecommunications” (para 4) with a “much faster, more-robust fire optic network” (para 4).

The writer then explains how this digital divide in the country, with people struggling to find good strong connections or at times any connectivity at all, has several possible disadvantages. The article explains how poor internet access might “worsen rural depopulation”, as more and more content moves online and “[Lack of internet access] becomes a social problem” (para 8). Poor connectivity also brings on a possible economic threat. The article cites critics who claim Germany has become too complacent with its success as an exporter of cars and must, instead, get up to speed with “data-hungry technologies like self-driving vehicles and virtual reality” (para 9).

The writer also talks about how the issue of the digital divide has received political attention. The writer states how the call for a stronger digital infrastructure is a focal point of the campaign of the leader of the opposition Social Democrats, Martin Schulz.

The writer also discusses Berlin’s target of providing access to a bandwidth speed of 50 Mbps a second by 2018 and the steps that are being taken to achieve this goal. Deutsche Telekom, the company that still dominates the current market has argued that “We neither have the construction capacities nor the financial resources in Germany to build out a fiber-based network over Germany now” (para 14). The company, trying to preserve its dominant position in the market, suggests using vectoring – which limits the interference to connections as a way of increasing speeds on existing copper cables. The writer analyses why this maybe bad. Even though vectoring might help achieve the government’s current target, it is slower than fiber optic and may soon become outdated – hence, reinforcing the problem with the existing infrastructure.

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