BRUSSELS, Feb 23 (Reuters) – The European Commission on Thursday opened a debate with Meta Platforms (META) and other big tech companies over who should foot the bill for billions of euros of investment in Europe’s telecommunications networks.
For more than two decades, Deutsche Telekom ( DTEGn.DE ), Orange ( ORAN.PA ), Telefonica ( TEF.MC ), Telecom Italia ( TLIT.MI ) and other operators have lobbied leading technology companies to promote 5G and broadband services.
He claims Alphabet’s Google ( GOOGL.O ) Google, Apple ( AAPL.O ), Meta, Netflix ( NFLX.O ), Amazon ( AMZN.O ) and Microsoft ( MSFT.O ) account for more than half of all Internet traffic . .
In response, tech companies are calling it an internet tax that would threaten the EU’s net neutrality rules, which treat all users equally. The 12-week consultation will end on May 19.
In his first public comment on the matter, Meta said regulators should recognize Big Tech’s contributions.
“Meta invests tens of billions of dollars in our apps and platform each year, making it easier to host content that creates tremendous value in the digital ecosystem,” said a Meta spokesperson.
“By failing to recognize that value flows in both directions between carriers and content hosting platforms, this advice is based on a flawed premise.”
EU industry chief Thierry Breton said it was not targeting any companies, citing heavy investment in 5G networks and broadband.
“The burden of these investments is heavy and heavy. Partly because of the low return on investment in the telecommunications sector, the rising prices of raw materials, the global geopolitical context and, of course, the cost of energy, which plays a big role,” he said. said at a press conference.
“All this thinking is directed at nobody but our own citizens,” Britton said.
“We’re hoping to move very quickly so we can come back with findings in the summer and then see what we do to continue progress,” he said.
Bratton said a contribution mechanism could be the solution. Other options include a continental or digital tax or a fund, according to a document seen by Reuters last month.
Telefónica CEO José María Alvarez Palet said Big Tech is a customer like any other user.
“It won’t be like a tax. We will charge them as if they were customers, so why are some customers paying and others not? This removes the anomaly,” he told Reuters.
Telecoms lobby group ETNO echoed this, saying the consultation was a necessary step to address key imbalances, but the Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA) criticized the proposal in a statement.
“Europeans already pay telecom operators to access the internet, and for the second time telecom operators don’t have to pay with expensive streaming and cloud services,” said CCIA Europe Vice President Christian Borgren.
Any legislative proposal must be agreed with EU member states and EU parliamentarians before it becomes law.
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