BERLIN, Aug. 23 (Xinhua) -- The German National Rail Company (Deutsche Bahn) will support government efforts to improve the provision of high-speed internet in Germany, chief executive officer (CEO) Richard Lutz told the "Funke" media group on Thursday.
Lutz highlighted that the state-owned company had already installed fiber optic cables along 18,500 of its 30,000 kilometers of railway tracks which were currently not being used to full capacity.
"We as the National Rail could market our fiber optic network and thus become part of the solution (to improve internet access in Germany)", he said.
Several recent studies have pointed to poor high-speed internet provision as a worrying aspect of a wider trend of deteriorating infrastructure quality which threatens to undermine the international competitiveness of German businesses.
In a survey of companies preferred European investment locations by the accountancy Ernst & Young (EY), only 15 percent of respondents expressed a high level of confidence that Germany was a country where digital business models could flourish.
Similarly, a study by the German Economic Institute (IW) noted that while an increase in national infrastructure spending was needed more generally, companies in the poorer Eastern parts of the country suffered in particular from an inadequate provision of modern communication networks. "Germany cannot afford to lag behind in a future-oriented area like communication," study author Thomas Puls told press.
Responding to such concerns, chancellor Angela Merkel convened the first ever meeting of a new council of digital experts on Wednesday. The council is made up of leading academics and business representatives and is scheduled to hold discussions with Merkel and other members of her cabinet at least twice a year.
The state-owned KfW banking group estimates that municipal governments in Germany are already confronted with an outstanding requirement for infrastructure investment totaling 159 billion euros (183.7 billion U.S. dollars) in 2018. Nearly 36 percent of authorities reported a "significant backlog" of investments compared to 17 percent in neighboring France and an average rate of 33 percent across Europe.
In light of this circumstance, Thursday's offer by Deutsche Bahn to lend a helping hand to a much-needed, but costly, digital offensive may be welcomed by Berlin.
According to a report by the magazine "SPIEGEL", the telecommunications industry is urgently looking for fiber optic connections, such as those in possession of Deutsche Bahn, in order to build a new 5G mobile network in Germany. The federal government is scheduled to auction off the first licenses for the 5G network in the course of the next year.