Big tech must share network costs in Europe – document France, Italy, Spain

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By Elvira Pollina and Giuseppe Fonte

MILAN (Reuters) -France, Italy and Spain are stepping up pressure on the European Commission to pass legislation that would see big tech companies partially fund telecom infrastructure in the bloc, a document showed Monday.

This was the first time the three governments have expressed their common position on the issue.

EU regulators said in May they were analyzing whether tech giants Google, Meta and Netflix should bear some of the cost of upgrading telecom networks.

In a joint paper, a copy of which Reuters has seen, the three governments said the top six content providers accounted for 55% of Internet traffic.

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“This generates specific costs for European telecom operators in terms of capacity, while they are already investing heavily in the most expensive parts of the networks with 5G and Fiber-To-The-Home,” the document said.

It urged European telecom networks and major online content providers to pay a fair share of network costs.

“We call for a legislative proposal … to ensure that all market players contribute to the costs of digital infrastructure,” the document said.

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Two Italian government officials confirmed details of the joint document. One said the government of Rome would provide informal support in its capacity of concern ahead of the general election in September.

The French and Spanish governments did respond immediately to a request for comment.

According to a study released earlier this year by telecom lobby group ETNO, an annual contribution of €20 billion in network costs by the tech giants could boost the EU economy by €72 billion.

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However, digital rights activists have warned that paying big tech for networks could threaten EU net neutrality rules, which they feared would be watered down in a deal with online giants to help fund telecom networks.

Any legislative proposal must “guarantee fairness between users in accordance with net neutrality rules, which is a core principle that we absolutely must maintain,” the joint document said.

(Reporting by Elvira Pollina in Milan and Giuseppe Fonte in Rome; editing by Valentina Za and Cynthia Osterman)

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