• Germany's news in English
 
German villagers build own broadband network

German villagers build own broadband network

Published: 01 Jun 2014 10:28 GMT+02:00

Too isolated and with few inhabitants, the tiny village of Löwenstedt in northern Germany is simply too small to show up on the radars of national Internet operators. 

So the villagers took their digital fate into their own hands and built a broadband Internet network of their own.

Peter Kock, who runs an agricultural technology supply firm in the village, couldn't be happier.

Data files that used to take two hours to load onto his computer screen now appear in just 30 seconds. "It's brilliant. There's no comparison," he enthused.

And that benefits his customers, too, because thanks to the new high-speed connection he can check the availability of parts much more rapidly.

Surrounded by wind power generators and fields, around 30 kilometres (18 miles) from the Danish border, the picturesque brick houses and gardens of Löwenstedt, with its population of just 640, are spread over about 200 hectares (500 acres).

With around 22 kilometres of network needed to link up all of the houses to the high-speed data highway, "we would never have found a company willing to supply the necessary fibre-optics," said mayor Holger Jensen.

Some 58 other communities in Northern Friesland face similar difficulties and so the idea was born of clubbing together - businesses, individuals and villages - to secure access to a modern technology that is taken for granted in most German towns and cities.

Mounted on the walls of Kock's store room are two white boxes bearing the initials BBNG or Citizens' Broadband Network Company, set up in 2012 to collect the funds and build the fibre-optic network.

The firm with five staff has collected more than €2.5 million ($3.4 million) in funds, thanks to its 925 shareholders who each contributed a minimum of €1,000, said BBNG chief Ute Gabriel-Boucsein.

SEE ALSO: German satellites capture incredible images of Earth

Solidarity is high in a village like Löwenstedt. And 94 percent of households, like that of Kock and his family, pledged to sign up to the network for two years before it was even built.

Kock also invested €5,000 in BBNG. And his parents who live across the road, aged 76 and 73, invested €1,000.

They receive interest from leasing the network, built in March at a cost of €800,000 to Internet supplier TNG.

"We're too small. Without this initiative we would have been forgotten," said Kock, who added that he feels reassured that his parents would be able to benefit from the advantages of tele-medecine and other technological advances allowing elderly people to continue living in their own homes.

"Living in the country with the luxuries of the town," said mayor Jensen, who is also a farmer, and who says high-speed Internet will enable him to take better care of his livestock.

But there are also wider benefits. The presence of a high-speed Internet network could stem the exodus of young people, help keep companies in the region, support property prices and make the region, which is close to the North Sea, more attractive to tourists.

For now, however, it is only the village of Löwenstedt that has succeeded in mobilizing the solidarity of its inhabitants to build a high-speed Internet network. Other villages have been slower and found it more difficult to follow Löwenstedt's lead.

"At least 68 percent of households in a village have to promise to subscribe to the fibre-optic network before we start work," said BBNG chief Ute Gabriel-Boucsein.

At the end of 2013, just 18 percent of Germany had access to networks with speeds up 10 megabytes per second and above, according to consultancy firm Akamai.

The German government has promised networks of at least 50 megabytes per second by 2018.

"But they don't say how they plan to achieve that," said Gabriel-Boucsein, adding that she was certain that Löwenstedt would remain excluded from such a digital El Dorado.

SEE ALSO: German airport WiFi charges are 'thievery'

For more stories about Germany, join us on Facebook and Twitter

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Steinmeier cancels trip to stay at Iran talks
Photo: DPA

Steinmeier cancels trip to stay at Iran talks

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has cancelled a planned trip Thursday to the Baltics in order to stay at nuclear talks between Iran and world powers, a German diplomat said. READ  

Uber complains to EU over national bans
Photo: DPA

Uber complains to EU over national bans

Uber has filed complaints with the EU against France, Germany and Spain as the popular taxi app hits back against efforts to ban it from Europe's streets, officials said Wednesday. READ  

Alps Plane Crash
Haltern mourns its children lost in crash
People gather outside the St. Sixtus Church in Haltern on Wednesday evening. Photo: DPA

Haltern mourns its children lost in crash

Haltern's St. Sixtus church was full to overflowing on Wednesday evening, as people flocked to mourn the group of schoolchildren the town lost in the Germanwings flight 4U9525 crash. READ  

Minister wants to ID Schengen passengers
Photo: DPA

Minister wants to ID Schengen passengers

Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière wants to introduce rules forcing airlines to ask all passengers for identification when travelling within the Schengen free-movement zone. READ  

Berlin refugee groups speak out against arson
The charred remains of the "House of 28 doors". Photo: DPA

Berlin refugee groups speak out against arson

Pro-refugee organizations in Berlin spoke out on Wednesday in defiance of an arson attack on an art installation and gathering-place in the early hours of Tuesday morning. READ  

Lufthansa promises long-term crash help
Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr (r) and Germanwings CEO Thomas Winkelmann near the crash site on Wednesday. Photo: DPA

Lufthansa promises long-term crash help

On a visit to the Germanwings flight 4U9525 crash site in France, Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr said that the company will do its utmost to help relatives of victims and local people near the crash site. READ  

Draft fracking law meets strong opposition
An anti-fracking demonstration in front of the Chancellery on Wednesday. Photo: DPA

Draft fracking law meets strong opposition

The cabinet agreed upon a draft law on “fracking” on Wednesday which will allow testing under stringent rules. But it is unclear whether the law will pass through the Bundestag (German parliament). READ  

Germany's best April Fools' jokes
It's that time of the year again...

Germany's best April Fools' jokes

While it might not be as prevalent as in English-speaking countries, there is still a rich tradition of “Aprilscherze” in Germany. Take a look inside for some of the best of 2015. READ  

April Fools' Day
April Fool! The Local's day in gags
In our April Fool's joke we reinstated the German monarchy. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

April Fool! The Local's day in gags

No, you weren’t going crazy when you scrolled through The Local this morning. Today, our network temporarily lost its marbles for April Fools' Day. So, as the clock strikes 12pm, it’s time for The Local to fess up and reveal which of our stories were red herrings. READ  

'Cannibal cop' gets 8-year sentence
Defendant Detlev Günzel at the court in Dresden on Wednesday. Photo: DPA

'Cannibal cop' gets 8-year sentence

A court sentenced a German former police officer to eight years and six months in jail Wednesday for killing a willing victim he met on a website for cannibalism fetishists. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Shutterstock
Sponsored Article
10 things you didn’t know about Zagreb (and why you should go)
Can the 'nightmare' of a pilot downing a plane be prevented?
National
LIVE: Co-pilot suspected of crashing plane
Sponsored Article
What expat parents should ask before choosing a school
Pupils mourn lost classmates
National
Freed after 25 years on death row
National
Cologne Cathedral returns from space
Features
Paddy's Day, Berlin style
Is your workload 'out of control'? You're not alone...
National
Why east Germans are happy to get it on on camera
National
What would you do with a 250-year-old pretzel?
Features
Just why is the German flag Schwarz, Rot, Gold?
Business & Money
Getting German workers and bosses thinking positive
National
Uplifting thoughts to get you through the last week of winter
National
Who wants the Olympics more - Hamburg or Berlin?
National
Last-minute drama of Germany's Eurovision 2015 entry
National
German photographer takes world's top prize
Features
Meet the woman getting Germans to drink more – and better – beer
Gallery
Get inspired for International Women's Day with German heroes
Sponsored Article
Expert US tax preparation for Americans in Germany
Green party proposes first-ever cannabis legalization plan
Gallery
In pictures: Germany's seven most livable cities
National
Singapore canes Germans for train graffiti
Politics
Surprise! Germans love feeling like they run the EU
Politics
Anger over plan to show women what men earn
Travel
Munich tram fans bicker over new bell
Features
Kafka: puzzling translators 100 years on
Business & Money
France or Germany: Which country really is the best country to work in?
Photo: Police
Rhineland
Student driver crashes tank into family garden.
Photo: DPA
Politics
There was a notable absence at the Anti-Semitism Commission
National
How Dresden bombing still divides Germany, 70 years on
Photo: DPA
Gallery
Take a cute break with this gallery of baby animals
International
What's keeping UK expats from voting?
Photo: DPA
National
Terror alert at a new high. Should you be worried?
Gallery
The best regional foods TTIP opponents want to protect
Photo: DPA
Features
All you ever needed to know about Pegida
Photo: Shutterstock
Culture
This cosplayer did not think his plan through
National
Europe in statistics - from Spain to Sweden
Gallery
Top 12 German idioms
Culture
10 top tips for partying in Germany
Photo: DPA
Technology
What does the Chancellor see as the future of the internet?
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
JobTalk: All you need to know about working in Germany
National
Share news tips with The Local Germany
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

7,018
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd