“I wonder if Germans think their WiFi-issues are a global thing”. That’s how one of my friends from the USA recently expressed his opinion towards the WIFI situation in Germany. They alluded to the impossibility to find free public WIFI in big German cities.
No wonder, since you can even find free mobile internet in the middle of the Israeli desert, in Estonian forests, on top of lonely Georgian mountains and along the highways in California. However, you won’t be able to find it in German pedestrian areas.
One reason for this lack of WiFi access is a legal situation. The provider of the free Wlan is legally responsible for the inevitable misbehavior of the users; the so-called “Stoererhaftung” (liability for disturbance).
But there is more behind it: The term “Neuland” (unknown territory) circulated a while ago, used by Angela Merkel at a meeting with President Obama, in context with the Internet. However, she did by no means mean the invention “Internet” itself, but rather figuratively the Internet as legal terrain.
The existing German legal status is just not sufficient to regulate the Internet, which is a contradiction in itself. Simultaneously, legislation works slowly and thus is even less able to keep up with such rapid changes.
Therefore, the basic dilemma becomes clear: Many Germans (The German institutions, for one) appreciate changes to be clear, regulated and with obvious roles and responsibilities. And in the event of doubt with distinct legal liability.
In general, changes are usually dealt with slowly but thoughtfully. Thus, if this attitude applies to an uncontrollable and rapidly spreading phenomena such as the Internet, conflict naturally develops.
German reservation does not solve such conflicts until an explicit and waterproof regulation has been found. But, this manner leads to satisfactory results of the changing process most of the time because „gut Ding will Weile haben“ (“Good things are worth waiting for“).