No 474: Design and implementation of a universal service regime in other countries.

No: 474: Design and implementation of a universal service regime in other countries.

Authors:  Lorenz Nett, Bernd Sörries

(full version only available in German)


Digital participation via fast internet access at a fixed location is essential for the citizens of a country. Social participation via social media, performing everyday tasks such as online shopping, online banking, but also home office in the shape of teleworking via video conferencing and data exchange requires access to a fast internet. The European Electronic Communications Code (EECC), which has been in force since December 2018 and is currently being transposed into national law by the Member States of the European Union, takes into account the increased importance of broadband internet use. Article 84 now mandates that all Member States, taking into account specific national circumstances, must ensure that all consumers in their territory have access at an affordable price to an appropriate broadband internet access service and voice communications services available at the quality specified in their territory, including the underlying connection, at a fixed location. The EECC Article 84 - 92 Directive (EU) 2018/1972 and Annex V, VI, VII, X specifies the requirements for a broadband universal service regime.

The national European regulatory authorities, in Germany the Federal Network Agency, face the challenge of implementing in reality a broadband universal service regime that defines the scope of universal service (i.e. qualitative requirements for a connection at a fixed location), the determination of the affordable price, the identification of universal service areas, the determination of the universal service provider(s), the calculation method for unreasonable costs of the universal service provider as well as a compensation or financing mechanism.

A benchmark recently compiled by BEREC for the Member States of the European Union and the results of a questionnaire sent by BNetzA to selected European National Authorities demonstrate that only a few (nine in total) states have had a universal broadband service at all. The requirements for this were comparatively moderate with a download requirement of 1 to 4 Mbit/s and no specifications for the upload rate. Since 2020, some countries have set more far-reaching requirements for such a service. A download requirement of 10 Mbit/s and further technical requirements for upload speeds and latency were set.
A detailed examination of the universal service regimes in Great Britain, Malta (intended), Switzerland and Australia provides interesting insights that can also be used for the design of a broadband universal service regime in Germany. Here it becomes apparent that universal service is the ultima ratio, which, following the subsidiarity ranking, is to be placed after self-supported expansion and other state subsidy programmes. Universal service does not initially create an entitlement to a gigabyte connection, but enables social and economic participation in accordance with current circumstances. In principle, universal broadband service can be realized nationally via a mix of technologies (technology-neutral). This means that mobile radio or even satellite technology can be used, especially in areas that are difficult to access.


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