How can tenants get fiber to their homes?

Internet via fiber optics is significantly faster than DSL and cable. But connecting a rental or condominium apartment to the network is not that easy.

Fiber-optic providers promise fast connections with currently up to one gigabit bandwidth. The problem is that most people don’t have any control over which connection they have in their apartment. Tenants or residents of condominiums have to work hard to get a fiber-optic connection – and there’s often no one direct route. Here’s a little help:

Tenants can only wait for fiber optics

First of all, disillusionment: tenants can hardly find out whether their own house has, can get or will get a fiber optic connection and which provider is responsible. “There is no blanket reliable source,” says network expert Thorsten Neuhetzki of “Inside Digital.”

The most likely scenario looks like this: You find a notice in your mailbox or posters in your neighborhood advertising fiber optic connections. For example, because the local public utility company, Deutsche Telekom or another provider wants to expand the network. Or direct marketers on behalf of the providers come to the doorstep. Now it’s time to act: “As a tenant, you can only mobilize what can be mobilized,” Thorsten Neuhetzki encourages.

Tenants of an entire house have it easiest here. All they have to do is get the consent of the homeowners. Tenants in individually owned houses with only a few residential units also have it easier here. They can join forces and make the request to the owners.

Without their consent, no fiber optic can be laid. “A hole has to be drilled somewhere in the house for the fiber optics. As a tenant, you have no right to do that,” says Neuhetzki.

How do tenants get fiber optics?
Somehow, the fiber optic cable has to get through the floor and the wall into the house. That is why tenants always need the permission of the house owners. Photo: dpa picture alliance

The hurdles for connecting to fiber optics are high

It gets a little more difficult with larger landlords. Here, according to Neuhetzki, there are often already framework agreements with providers for fast Internet supply. And that doesn’t always have to be fiber optics. In principle, says Neuhetzki, it can’t hurt to ask the administration and draw their attention to the issue. Because if there is not yet a framework agreement, there is at least theoretically the chance of fiber optics.

Probably the biggest challenge is homeowners associations (WEG). Regardless of whether you live in a condominium in a WEG or rent it: Here, too, you can’t just get connected to fiber optics on your own. The WEG must jointly decide to connect the house to the fiber optic network. And anyone who has ever been to an owners’ meeting knows that quick decisions are rarely made here.

Neuhetzki’s advice: don’t wait at all for a fiber-optic provider’s marketing offer, but clarify the issue directly. “Make the landlords or management aware of the issue today and decide on the topic in a general way at the next owners’ meeting,” he says. Otherwise, deadlines can quickly be missed in the event of an expansion campaign by a company. A possible free connection to the network would then no longer be possible.

Also interesting: Internet too slow? Users may pay less in future

How can you convince the landlord of fiber optics?

Why should landlords and property owners actually agree to being connected to the fiber-optic network? After all, that also involves construction work. And even if the companies often lay the connections at no cost to the homeowners, at least the cost of connecting the individual apartments may be on them. So some solid reasoning tools won’t hurt.

1. owners can apportion costs

Owners can pass on some of the costs to their tenants, says Sven Knapp from the industry association Breko, which represents many fiber-optic providers. This is possible via the new Telecommunications Act, which comes into force on December 1, 2021.

In it, there is a so-called fiber provision fee. “This allows landlords and building owners to pass on part of the fees for laying fiber in the building to the tenants via the service charges.” Sounds bad for tenants at first, but it is moderate: a maximum of 5 euros a month, or 60 euros a year for a maximum of 9 years, may be passed on. Per apartment, that’s a cost of 540 euros spread over nine years – not bad at all.

2. fiber optics are future-proof

“Once fiber optics are laid, there is peace for many decades,” says Sven Knapp. Admittedly, there is still no long-term experience with fiber optic technology in apartment buildings. But manufacturers currently promise 30 years and more of durability without replacement.

How do tenants get fiber optics?
An inconspicuous line with a lot of potential: Fiber optics currently deliver up to 1 gigabit per second to homes. Photo: dpa picture alliance

3. property value increases

A value increase of five to eight percent was calculated a few years ago by the Haus & Grund owners’ association. Due to the increased demand for broadband connections, more streaming and more home work, Sven Knapp now sees the increase in value as being even higher.

“Apartments without fiber optics may be more difficult to rent in the future,” says network expert Thorsten Neuhetzki even. For more and more tenants, a fast network connection is becoming an important criterion.

4. laying the network after the fact is much more expensive

“If fiber providers put it in the house for free, why not? Take it with you,” says Thorsten Neuhetzki. After all, if you don’t take part in the expansion campaigns, with a bit of bad luck you’ll only be able to access the network at your own expense later on. And that can be quite expensive, depending on the house, distance from the street and other factors.

How does the connection work?

Somehow the fiber has to get into the house. Perhaps there is already an empty conduit, otherwise a hole has to be drilled. Then the house connection is installed. In many marketing campaigns, providers take care of this part of the work at no additional cost. In other cases, the expansion is free of charge if fiber optic connections are also booked – it depends on the individual case.

In existing buildings, the homeowner usually has to pay for the supply to the individual apartments in the house. And that can get a little dusty. According to Breko, the fiber is almost always laid flush-mounted in Germany. However, some of the costs can be apportioned via the fiber provision charge. Some newer buildings may already be equipped for fiber to the home.

In the case of a fiber optic connection, tenants would only have to pay for two things: they would have to buy a fiber optic modem or obtain one from the provider. And, of course, the cost of Internet via fiber optics. For this, you currently have to calculate between 40 and 45 euros a month for 250 to 300 megabits per second (Mbit/s) and 80 to 90 euros for the gigabit connection (1000 Mbit/s).

In summary: “The smaller and more individual the tenancy, the greater the chances,” says Thorsten Neuhetzki. And the general rule is: pay attention, be proactive and keep at it – unfortunately, that’s all tenants can do in most cases.

With material from dpa