Helaba Annual Report 2016
Annual Report 2016
the Main-Kinzig district's broadband update brings
residents properly into the internet age

High Speed

Fast internet for all residents, rapid realisation and to finish off, quick repayment of the loan: the broadband upgrade in the Main-Kinzig district has turned out to be a success story on every count.

From lounging vacantly on the couch streaming TV favourites to sending and receiving large volumes of vital business data, when it comes to using the internet, speed is king. Users in rural regions, however, still often face standard connection speeds of less than one megabit per second despite it having been clear for quite some time that fast internet is an integral component of modern infrastructure. Economic growth, general prosperity, education and good medical care increasingly depend on quick access to online resources. Wirtschafts- und Infrastrukturbank Hessen (WIBank) has consequently begun assisting municipal authorities wishing to expand their digital infrastructure with a low-interest broadband loan.

A community rolls up its sleeves

The Main-Kinzig district, like similar communities all over Germany, had found itself left behind by the roll-out of modern broadband technology and the consequences were starting to bite: the lack of fast internet access was identified as a factor behind the increasing number of families moving to nearby urban areas and concerns among local businesses that they might have to relocate in order to remain competitive. The situation could not be allowed to continue. The plan was deceptively simple: create, as quickly as possible, a comprehensive fibre optic network that would enable speeds of at least 25 and up to 50 megabits per second and would cover the more remote areas of the district as well as its 29 towns and municipalities.

Thanks in part to the strong backing it received from all stakeholders – residents, politicians and businesses alike – across the district, this ambitious major project was completed extremely rapidly. It proved impossible at first to find any operator in Europe prepared to deliver a comprehensive upgrade in the Main-Kinzig district, so in 2012 the district authority grasped the nettle itself and established a wholly owned subsidiary, Breitband Main-Kinzig GmbH, for the purpose. The idea was to construct a fibre optic network that would be owned by the district but fully let to an operator. The concept gained traction and a contract partner in the form of Bavarian telecommunications company M-net was soon on board. The required funding came from WIBank, which awarded a broadband loan to the project. The initial pilot projects were already close to completion by the time the loan contract was signed at the end of 2012 – and less than three years later the main objective had been achieved.

The project involved the laying of some 600 kilometres of fibre optic cable and yet the entire modernisation has been completed without any substantial costs for the municipal authorities and taxpayers. M-net pays Breitband Main-Kinzig GmbH a monthly network rental charge for each customer connected, income that the district uses to repay the loan to WIBank. WIBank's broadband development programme has proved a success story more generally too and other district authorities have also now received similar loans.

Milestones

2011

October // Opening discussions between initiators and WIBank regarding development support options
December // Main-Kinzig district (MKK) sounds out the market and finds no takers;
decides to implement the upgrade itself

2012

March // MKK district assembly approves the project
April // Establishment of Breitband Main-Kinzig GmbH
October // Pilot projects begin
December // WIBank confirms loan of € 50.5 m as long-term financing

2013

March // Pilot locations commissioned by M-net: 3,200 homes go online
May // Work begins on the Main-Kinzig district broadband upgrade
December // 40 % of construction work complete, 250 km of cable laid, 30,000 homes online

2014

December // 80 % of construction work complete, 500 km of cable laid, 80,000 homes online

2015

August // The planned upgrade funded through the WIBank loan is completed

2016 / 2017

Phased connection of new development zones, schools, town halls and remote farms and hamlets; connection of companies requiring speeds in excess of 50 Mbit/s

560km
The length of fibre optic cable laid by August 2015. Sites including new development zones and remote farms are currently being connected up to the Main-Kinzig district broadband network in work that will involve a further 80 kilometres of trenching and tunnelling.
45 million
The sum (in euros) that has been invested in the broadband upgrade and that is being repaid with the network rental charge paid by operator M-net.
155
The number of district settlements connected to the broadband network so far. Some 95 % have access to connection speeds of 50 megabits per second, with speeds of at least 25 megabits per second available everywhere else.
38000
The number of customers contracted to M-net in the Main-Kinzig district. This included 1,700 business customers as of February 2017 and numbers are still rising.

Three questions to Erich Pipa, Chief Administrative Officer of the County District of Main-Kinzig and the principal initiator of the broadband upgrade

Mr. Pipa, was there any one moment over the course of the project that particularly touched you?

I particularly enjoyed seeing how engaged and interested residents of all ages became in the project. One conversation I had with an older married couple definitely stands out: the pair had great-grandchildren in Canada, with whom they could now Skype and share pictures from their tablet. The new possibilities have significantly improved their quality of life.

You refer to the fibre optic network as the "citizens' network". Why?

Because the network was created by the people who live here for their own benefit. Demographic change had started to become a real problem for some communities in the district and for many families poor internet access was one of the factors driving them away. Now, I am pleased to say, the trend has reversed. I have heard from the mayor of the Jossgrund municipality, for example, that families from the Frankfurt area have started moving out to the countryside. Their jobs are still based in Frankfurt, but they also work from a home office in some cases.

The success of what was for us a very major undertaking also depended on the engagement and trust of our residents. Political bodies at district and municipal levels, residents and business were all involved in planning and implementation right from the start and were always kept abreast of the project's progress. Many ended up identifying strongly with the project as a result and were very positive about the whole thing. The broadband upgrade brought us together.

"The broadband upgrade brought our district and its municipalities together." Erich Pipa,
Chief Administrative Officer, County District of Main-Kinzig

The success of what was for us a very major undertaking also depended on the engagement and trust of our residents. Political bodies at district and municipal levels, residents and business were all involved in planning and implementation right from the start and were always kept abreast of the project's progress. Many ended up identifying strongly with the project as a result and were very positive about the whole thing. The broadband upgrade brought us together.

The project has enhanced the Main-Kinzig district's attractiveness as a place to do business too.

That was one of the overriding objectives. I was told ahead of the project by one company owner from Flörsbachtal, for example, that he was having to download large volumes of data onto USB sticks and deliver them to his customers in person because his internet connection was nowhere near capable of coping. So bad had the situation become that some companies could see no future in our region and were thinking about relocating just to remain competitive. The broadband upgrade has enabled us not only to hold on to existing companies, but also to draw in new ones. Employment has been protected and new jobs created, in other words. And the process continues.

“WIBank is committing to back improved broadband services in rural areas in order to foster the development and secure the future of our regions. The state of Hesse faces competition for businesses and the jobs they bring both nationally and internationally and the time it takes to achieve full coverage with the infrastructure required for the digital future is ultimately one of the factors by which its attractiveness will be judged.” Gottfried Milde,
spokesman for the Management Board of WIBank

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