EU to consult to get Big Tech to contribute to telecom network costs – SABC News

The EU executive body will launch a consultation early next year on whether the tech giants have to bear some of the costs of the European telecommunications network, EU industry chief Thierry Breton said Friday.

European telecom operators have long lobbied for financial support from US tech companies such as Alphabet’s Google (GOOGL.O), Meta’s Facebook and Netflix (NFLX.O), claiming they use a huge chunk of internet traffic.

“We also need to check whether the regulation is adapted with ‘GAFA’ (Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon), for example, using the bandwidth (provided by) telecom operators,” Breton told reporters, speaking in French.

GAFA is the French acronym for the largest US tech companies, including Netflix.

Breton said that this particular issue, or the so-called potential “fair share” of US tech companies in financing European telecommunications and internet infrastructure, will be part of a broad consultation that will involve the metaverse, the shared environments of the virtual world that people can access via the Internet.

ETNO, the European lobby for telecom operators, said in a May report that more than half of global network traffic is attributable to six companies: Google, Facebook, Netflix, Apple, Amazon and Microsoft.

These companies said that introducing any new financial contributions would challenge “net neutrality”, or the principle that Internet service providers should allow access to all content and applications regardless of their source.

Internet providers, for their part, have argued that these companies have conflicting interests in providing competitive services such as voice and TV services and leveraging their network, acting as a free rider.

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Breton said the consultation will start in the first quarter of 2023 and will take five to six months. The proposals of the EU Commission will follow, he said.

Nine lawmakers in the European Parliament drafted a letter to be sent to Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen, Breton and EU digital head Margrethe Vestager urging them to ensure that companies that generate the most traffic on network infrastructure contribute in a way fair and cost-effective.

Lawmakers, including Andreas Schwab, Stephanie Yon-Courtin, and Paul Tang, also said the new measures should be consistent with the principles of the Open Internet Regulation, referring to the block’s net neutrality rules which ensure that providers of Internet services (ISPs) cannot block or limit traffic to prioritize certain services.

“This fairer contribution should not discriminate against specific companies, but reflect the role and impact of those who generate the most traffic on the network,” they said in the letter seen by Reuters.

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