Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Internet Is Not Free

When Luis first moved to Germany, and registered for the first time with the city, he started getting these letters from this thing called the GEZ.  

Having know idea what they were, he passed them on to his agent, who also happens to be a lawyer, which is quite helpful for us when dealing with German things.

After passing the letters on, they just sort of disappeared and that was that.  Then, when Luis and I got married and I moved over here, we went and registered together in the city, and the letters started coming again. 

When I asked Luis what they were, he said he didn't really know, that we should just give it to Andreas and he would take care of them. And take care of them he did. They stopped coming. 

And of course, when we moved here, and we went and registered with the city, we started getting these letters again. Having a bit more knowledge of the German language at this point, and wanting to not have to always rely on Andreas for everything, we decided to read through it and take care of it ourselves. 

The letter asked us to register our radios, TVs, car radios, etc. We filled out the form, feeling so good about ourselves that we were doing something on our own, and sent it away. A short time later we got this in the mail.

That would be a bill. For € 53.94.

And now I'm beginning to think that maybe there are some areas that relying on Andreas isn't such a bad idea. 

We paid the 54 some Euros and went on our way. And then, last week, we got this. 

Another one? Seriously, we should not have done this one on our own. And can you guess how much this one is for?

Same amount. I mentioned these ridiculous bills to a German friend the other day and she informed me that we will be receiving (and paying) these wonderful little bills every--get this--3 months! 

Are you kidding me? As if we don't pay enough in taxes already. Socialism people. It's a dream.

I started to do a bit more reading about this little large fee and here is what I found, according to Wikipedia. It's called the GEZ, which stands for the Gebühreneinzugszentrale der öffentlich-rechtlichen Rundfunkanstalten in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland

Now that's a title. Translation: Fee Collection Center of Public-law Broadcasting Institutions in the Federal Republic of Germany. 

German words, such as the ones you just read, are what make communicating rather difficult at times.  Sometimes when I attempt to pronounce words like Rundfunkfinanzierungsstaatsvertrag, I just wonder what's going through people's minds. I imagine it may include one or more of the following thoughts:

"Oh this poor girl..."
"Is she drunk? Her words are slurring"
"Does she have a speech impediment? She sure doesn't seem to be able to pronounce words correctly."
"She is taking much too long to spit this word out. And I have no idea what word she is even saying. Uneducated American."
"I wonder what I should have for lunch today, Schnitzel oder Bratwurst?"

Okay, I'm sure people are much kinder, at least I hope they are, but really, whoever created the German language should not have allowed such big words in.

Anyway, so what is the purpose of this ridiculously long-named agency? Besides imposing ridiculous fees? Oh wait, they have no other purpose besides imposing ridiculous fees. But Wikipedia says it much nicer than that:

"The GEZ is responsible for collecting broadcast participants' data and collecting a broadcasting fee as determined in the Rundfunkfinanzierungsstaatsvertrag (State Treaty on the Financing of Broadcasting) for each Rundfunkempfangsgerät, or broadcast receiving devices such as TV sets, radios or computers."

When one reads further on however, they learn that not only does it include TV sets, radios or computers, but one is also subject for having a PDA, Smartphone, mobile phone WLAN or Internet capability, and navigation systems that are capable of receiving broadcast signals or connecting to the Internet. 

According to Toytown Germany "Many, especially immigrants, do not understand what the GEZ is, and consequently don't respond to the registration requests made by the collection center. Others consciously do not pay the monthly charges out of protest against what they feel is a ridiculous cause."

Well these two immigrants do not understand this GEZ thing. And while we did respond to the registration requests, we have consciously considered not paying the monthly charges of of protest against what we feel is a ridiculous cause. But then that whole "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's" verse came to mind and we thought better against it. 

But seriously, while we will obediently pay this fee, I find it to be rather unfair considering: 

1. We don't even listen to German public radio because usually our iPods are hooked up in the car and we're jamming out to our own tunes
2. We pay for SKY television, and in my opinion, that should exempt us from having to pay an additional fee for the public broadcast stations because we are already paying for them. And we don't even watch them anyway...I mean, there's a reason we chose to pay for television, because we wanted something other than what was offered on public stations.
3. Publishing content on the Internet is free, so just what does the Internet fee pay for?
4. Navigation...there's nothing to say about this one except, really? 

 € 215.76 a year. 

You know what we could do with € 215.76? Well first of all, that's almost $300. And with a good flight deal in February that would pay for almost half of a flight back home. More than half even. If we were to purchase a flight to Arizona today for February 13 we would pay just over $500.

That could be a legit reason for not paying the fee right? I mean, it's for family, and family is more important than radio taxes and what not, yeah? 

Oh, I can just imagine the look on the GEZ worker's face now when I pull that one my simple, slurred, drunken sounding German. Yeah, I think we better just keep paying the fee. Sorry Parents. 


Anonymous said... Best Blogger Tips

When I got the letter, I ticked the box saying I don't have a tv or radio. Because I don't agree with paying that crazy fee when I don't even watch German tv. Haven't had another letter from them since luckily. Sorry, it sounds like you might be stuck with it now...

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