Germany's Wi-Fi Shortage Set to Ease as Merkel Backs New Bill

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By Stefan Nicola

Sept. 16 — Germany is set to remove legal quirks that hold providers of Wi-Fi hotspots liable for what users that have connected do online, a move Chancellor Angela Merkel's government hopes will increase free Internet offerings across the country.

Merkel's cabinet of ministers on Sept. 16 backed a bill that would remove the liability established by Germany's top civil court in 2010, the government said in a statement. Under the bill, the liability will be removed as long as providers secure the network properly and get users to agree not to act illegally. The government also backed plans to increase venture-capital aid for startups.

Travelers used to checking e-mail for free when hopping around the world are often hit by an unpleasant surprise when searching for Wi-Fi in Germany. Fearing lawsuits, many restaurants, cafes and hotels restrict access to their hotspots or don't offer them, meaning visitors struggle to connect or end up paying expensive roaming fees.

“Now cities, cafes, hotels and privates can open up their Wi-Fi in a legally secure way,” Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel said in a statement. The bill ties into Germany's “digital agenda” aimed at blanketing the country with high-speed Internet by 2018, backing the digitalization of industry and defending Europe's biggest economy against attacks by cybercriminals.

Providers hosting data for others will remain legally accountable if their business model is based on infringing copyright laws, the government said.

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To contact the editors responsible for this story: Kenneth Wong at +49-30-70010-6215 or; Ville Heiskanen, Kim McLaughlin

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