Transport Minister Alexander Dorbindt has announced a major public-private plan to invest in broadband infrastructure in Germany, saying fast Internet access was crucial to domestic businesses' competitiveness.
Ahead of the CeBIT computer trade fair in Hanover, Transport and Infrastructure Minister Alexander Dobrindt told the "Rheinische Post" daily that German businesses and the government wanted to invest more than 10 billion euros ($10.5 billion) in high-speed Internet services.
Of the total sum, 8 billion euros would come from the telecommunications industry, another billion in the form of a government investment package, and at least another billion from the auctioning off of frequencies for mobile broadband, according to Dobrindt's ministry. The auctioning process is scheduled to start on May 27 this year; yields from the sales could stretch to 2 billion euros.
"The quality of our digital infrastructure is ever more decisive when it comes to the competitiveness of our companies," Dobrindt told Rheinische Post, calling broadband Internet the "driving force" for new ideas, new jobs and economic growth.
According to transport ministry information, two-thirds of German households now have access to particularly high speed Internet with a rate of at least 50 Megabits per second (just over 6 megabytes per second).
Chinese IT elite in Hanover
The CeBIT trade fair opens its doors to the public in Hanover this week. Around 3,300 companies from 70 countries are represented at the fair. Economy Minister and Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel conducted the opening tour of the event in Chancellor Angela Merkel's stead on Monday; Merkel is meeting Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in Berlin.
On Sunday evening, Merkel appeared alongside several speakers from partner country China, appealing for closer bilateral cooperation - but also clear rules of engagement - in the IT sector.
"Businesses and investors have an understandable interest in knowing the conditions in which they're working: predictability, reliability, equal treatment of the various businesses in our countries," Merkel said. The chancellor cited plans for a deal protecting investments between the EU and China as one such example, saying "Germany is working towards an agreement as soon as possible."
Chinese Deputy Prime Minister Ma Kai said Beijing was ready to dispose of trade barriers and build up a global marketplace, calling also for international rules on IT security.
Jack Ma, the founder of Chinese online giant Alibaba, said that the permanent presence of German giants like Mercedes-Benz and Siemens on the Chinese market should set an example for the IT sector. Ma said he had come to CeBIT, "because I want to find the missing piece to the Internet puzzle here."
msh/rc (dpa, Reuters)