Telecom service providers in Europe have demanded that big technology companies need to share mobile network costs, citing the energy crisis and EU climate change goals.
Deutsche Telekom, Orange, Telefonica, Vodafone, Bouygues Telecom, KPN, BT Group, TIM Group, Telia Company, Fastweb and Altice Portugal are demanding investment support from tech leaders such as Google, Meta and Netflix.
European Commission is the process of seeking feedback from tech firms and telecoms before making a legislative proposal that could force tech companies to help pay for the roll-out of 5G and fibre cables across the 27-country European Union.
The sector which invests some 50 billion euros ($48.5 billion) annually in infrastructure, needs more funding and urgently, the chief executives of top telecom operators said in a news statement issued on Monday.
CEOs said cost of planning and construction works is increasing. Prices for fibre optic cables have almost doubled in the first semester 2022. Similarly, the hikes in energy prices and in the prices of other inputs are also hitting the connectivity sector, they said.
Europe’s telecoms operators argue that US technology firms such as Alphabet’s Google, Meta and Netflix account for more than half of internet traffic and should bear some of the cost of upgrading infrastructure.
Big Tech has rebuffed such requests, saying they are already investing in equipment and technologies to deliver content more efficiently.
Google said funding network costs is a 10-year-old idea that was bad for consumers and that the company was already investing millions in internet infrastructure.
Matt Brittin, president of EMEA business & operations at Google, said the idea, floated more than 10 years ago, could disrupt Europe’s net neutrality or open internet access.
“Introducing a ‘sender pays’ principle is not a new idea, and would upend many of the principles of the open internet,” he said according to the text of a speech to be delivered at a conference organised by telecoms lobbying group ETNO.
Google, owner of YouTube, has done its part to make it more efficient for telecoms providers by carrying traffic 99 percent of the way and investing millions of euros to do so.
In 2021, Google invested over 23 billion euros in capital expenditure – much of which is infrastructure, Brittin said.
Google said these include six large data centres in Europe, 20 subsea cables globally, with five in Europe, and caches to store digital content within local networks in 20 locations in Europe.