Tag: government aid

German government subsidises Starlink satellite Internet


Starlink satellite launch photo courtesy of SpaceX

German government to subsidise satellite Internet installations for Starlink and similar setups at the consumer end

Germany to subsidise Starlink subs | (advanced-television.com)

Germany readies subsidies for satellite internet providers such as Starlink | Reuters

My Comments

The rise of low-earth-orbit satellite technology to enable decent Internet service for regional, rural and remote parts of the world has gained a bit more traction.

This time, it is the German Federal Government (Bundesregierung) with its Transport ministry who are subsidising Starlink installations across rural Germany. The US’s FCC has engaged in some form of subsidisation for Starlink but this is at a corporate level as part of their US-government-based program for enabling decent rural Internet service there.

The German approach is to provide EUR€500 towards Starlink hardware purchase for installation in Germany’s rural areas. This doesn’t just apply to Starlink but to any satellite or other radio-link-based Internet service provided on a retail level. It is intended to be consumer-focused and provider-agnostic in the same manner as what is expected for the provision of broadcasting and telecommunications in modern Germany.

It doesn’t apply to ongoing service costs that customers pay to keep the service alive. In the case of Starlink, the monthly service costs are EUR€99 / month at the time of writing.

German countryside - By Manfred&Barbara Aulbach (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

.. to improve access to real broadband in German rural areas

This was just announced as Tesla were about to commence work on building its European Gigafactory near Berlin and was riding on the fact that Tesla and SpaceX Starlink are owned by Elon Musk. The Bundesregierung need to seek approval from all of Germany’s 16 Federal States for this retail-level subsidy to go ahead.

The question that will come up is  whether public subsidies for satellite or other radio-based Internet service is the way to go to bring decent broadband Internet to rural areas. This is compared to current efforts by local or regional governments in cohort with local chambers of commerce to bring fibre-optic Internet to rural and regional areas.

There will also be the issue of whether to extend this kind of subsidy to people living in boats along Germany’s inland waterways. Think of retirees who have riverboats on the Rhine, Elbe or Wupper rivers or cabin cruisers on the likes of Lake Constance (Bodensee).

Personally, I would see Starlink and similar technology come in to play for sparse rural areas while fibre or similar deployments are considered for more dense settlements. The long fibre-optic trunk link between towns or to serve a remote employment / industry area should never be forgotten as a way to encourage economic growth along its path.

At least Germany is taking another approach to dealing with the rural Internet deficiency issue by subsidising the installation of Starlink and similar technology in its rural households.

European Commission gives financial thumbs-up for Germany’s rural-broadband efforts


German countryside - By Manfred&Barbara Aulbach (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

European Union provides aid to Germany for real broadband in its rural areas

Euro Commish OKs €3bn German broadband aid scheme | The Register

Further resources

Breitbandauschreibungen.de – Broadband infrastructure office (German language / Deutsche Sprache)

Previous coverage

Discussions in Germany about how broadband can benefit rural areas

Deutsche Telekom raises isssues about rural broadband in Germany

My Comments

Germany has had a long desire to make sure that rural areas in their Länder (States), especially their Flächlander (Area States) which have these rural areas, were getting real broadband. Now they have been given EUR€3 billion to help them with these efforts.

According to the Breitbandauschreibungen.de Website which is administering this aid, Saxony-Anhalt have become the “first cab off the rank” to seek funding for various projects to assure 50Mb broadband over the State. Most of these efforts in the site have been fielded by local governments under the auspices of the Staatskanzlei des Landes Sachsen-Anhalt (the state government for the Saxony-Anhalt state).

Most likely these efforts will take place at the state (Länder} level with help from local government rather than the onus being placed on Berlin. This works better because the state and local governments know what’s going on at the coalface. But Berlin would need to play its part in assuring real competition for broadband Internet service throughout Gernany and not give Deutsche Telekom special favours.

Initiatives in France to provide access to broadband Internet to the poor


L’ADSL social, bientôt une réalité ? – DegroupNews.com (France – French language)

My comments and summary on this topic

The French government have taken a few positive steps in subsidising broadband Internet access to poorer communities by encouraging the provision of “tarifs sociaux” or “social tariffs”.

Through France Télécom, they are running a broadband plan of €6.00 per month for 43,000 of the most disadvantaged households rather than the traditional basic plan of €16.00 per month. The government are also looking at subsidising ADSL-based “triple-play” plans to the tune of €5-10 per month for poorer households based on a “social allocation” system. On the other hand, they will work with the industry to establish an industry-established “social fund” which can help with access-enablement programs.

They are describing it as a plan to end the social digital divide. But, in my opinion, there is still the issue of providing equipment of a reasonable standard to enable these programs. If the plan includes the price of any customer-premises equipment, the plan should include a router capable of 4 Ethernet ports and 802.11g WiFi access. Other issues that may need to worked on include whether the person has to supply their own computer or whether they could have access to modest equipment such as a netbook, nettop or low-end desktop or notebook for a low monthly fee. On the other hand, these people may end up with secondhand computer equipment that is supplied “as-is”.

As well, there would need to be some form of community assistance for people who are computer-illiterate. This includes help with the common computer skills such as sending and receiving emails, Web browsing, word processing and file management.

At least France has outlined some steps towards providing affordable Internet access to the poorer communities within the cities.

thinkbroadband :: European Commission introduces broadband funding guidelines

 thinkbroadband :: European Commission introduces broadband funding guidelines

European Commission Broadband Funding Guidelines – PDF document (English) (Français) (Deutsch)

My comments and summary of this document

The European Commission’s goal in this document is to provide 100% high-speed broadband service to every European citizen – broadband to he just like regular telephone or electricity service. They are to put EUR 1.02bn to European Agricultural Fund For Rural Development with part of this money for equipping rural areas with high-speed broadband “hot and cold running Internet”. As well, member countries are pitching money towards deploying very high speed Internet services (fibre-optic Internet) into populated areas.

The activities covered in the guidelines may typically be equipment and backhaul “pipeline” to provide broadband Internet to remote population centres in the case of basic broadband provision or equipment and works to provide next-generation broadband to areas that aren’t worth it due to sparse population or poorer neighbourhoods that are less likely to pay for the service.

What to be done to qualify for State aid

New basic-broadband services

  • Proper geographical analysis of Internet service in all areas to identify white and grey areas
  • Open tender process for providing the State-underpinned services or infrastructure
  • Most economically advantageous offer (best value for money) to be preferred for providing the service
  • Technology-neutral service so that a provider can use their choice of wireline, terrestrial wireless, satellite wireless or mobile wireless technologies or provide a mix of the technologies
  • Use of existing infrastructure (ducts, poles, black fibre, etc) preferred without favouring existing incumbent operators.
  • Wholesale access to be preferred so that fair and equitable retail Internet access can be provided to customers from multiple providers
  • Prices to be benchmarked to assess real competitiveness
  • Support for a claw-back mechanism if there is over-compensation

New next-generation broadband services

Preference to pure competition such as access to ducts, black fibre or bitstream by competing operators; or support for differing topologies like point-to-point or point-to-multipoint

This could include providing for the use of trenches caused by renovation works for existing services like electricity, gas or water.

What hasn’t been covered

One major gap that exists in these guidelines, especially as far as unbundled services or next-generation broadband services is concerned is privately-owned multi-tenancy developments like shopping centres or blocks of flats.

In these places, a property owner or management committee could permit only a particular operator to lay infrastructure in their building and prohibit competing providers from laying their infrastructure in the same building. There isn’t provision for measures that preclude this kind of behaviour that denies tenants or unit owners access to infrastructurally-competitive Internet service.


This document should be looked at and considered by governments and telecommunications regulators when they prepare frameworks for next-generation telecommunications and Internet services.