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EU telecoms urge Brussels to make Big Tech pay for network costs

The chief executives of 20 leading European telecoms companies have called on the EU to make Big Tech pay more for the network infrastructure they use. The telecoms argue that the tech giants benefit from the high-speed internet connections that they invest in, but do not contribute to the costs.

Telecoms face challenges in meeting data demand

The telecoms, which include BT, Deutsche Telekom, Orange, and Vodafone, said in an open letter to the EU that they face significant challenges in meeting the growing demand for data in Europe. They said that the Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the digital transformation of the economy and society, and that more investment is needed to ensure a resilient and sustainable network infrastructure.

The telecoms said that they have invested more than €50 billion a year in network infrastructure in Europe, but that this is not enough to meet the ambitious targets set by the EU for connectivity and digitalisation. They said that they need a fair and balanced regulatory framework that encourages innovation and competition, and that recognises the value of network infrastructure.

Big Tech accused of free-riding on network infrastructure

The telecoms also accused Big Tech companies, such as Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Netflix, of free-riding on their network infrastructure. They said that these companies drive most of the internet traffic growth, but do not pay for the network capacity they use. They said that this creates an imbalance in the digital ecosystem, and that Big Tech should contribute more to the network costs.

The telecoms proposed that the EU should introduce a mechanism that would allow them to charge Big Tech companies for the network capacity they use, based on objective criteria such as traffic volume, quality of service, and network impact. They said that this would create a level playing field and foster a more sustainable and inclusive digital economy.

EU telecoms urge Brussels to make Big Tech pay for network costs

Big Tech rejects telecoms’ claims

However, Big Tech companies rejected the telecoms’ claims, saying that they already pay for the internet access they use. They said that telecoms companies charge their customers for the broadband services they provide, and that they should not double-charge Big Tech companies for the same service. They also said that Big Tech companies contribute to the digital economy by creating innovative products and services that generate value for consumers and businesses.

Daniel Friedlaender, head of CCIA Europe, which lobbies on behalf of the tech industry, argued that telecoms companies have grown thanks to the exciting content and services developed by creative and tech firms. He said that now they are trying to fool Europe into providing them with extra cash.

EU to review telecoms regulation

The EU is currently reviewing its telecoms regulation as part of its Digital Decade agenda, which aims to make Europe fit for the digital age by 2030. The EU has set ambitious goals for connectivity, such as ensuring that all households have access to gigabit-speed internet, and that all populated areas are covered by 5G networks.

The EU has also proposed new rules for digital services and markets, which aim to curb the power of Big Tech companies and ensure fair competition online. The EU has said that it wants to create a digital single market that benefits both consumers and businesses, and that fosters innovation and diversity.

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