Europe’s major telecommunications operators faced resistance from a majority of EU countries in their efforts to compel Big Tech companies to contribute to the funding of 5G and broadband deployment across the region, Reuters news report said.
During a meeting with EU industry chief Thierry Breton in Luxembourg on Thursday, telecoms ministers from 18 countries either rejected or criticized the proposed imposition of network fees on tech firms. This aligns with the stance expressed by the EU telecommunications regulators’ group BEREC last month.
Deutsche Telekom, Orange, Telefonica, and Telecom Italia have advocated for Big Tech to share the burden of network costs. They found support in the European Commission’s industry chief Breton, who previously served as the CEO of France Telecom and French IT consulting firm Atos. However, Alphabet Inc’s Google, Apple, Meta Platforms, Netflix, Amazon.com, and Microsoft have rebuffed the idea, emphasizing their investments in the digital ecosystem.
The ministers highlighted several concerns, including the absence of an analysis on the impact of a network fee, the lack of evidence regarding an investment gap, and the possibility of Big Tech passing on the additional costs to consumers through higher prices. They also expressed apprehension about potential violations of EU net neutrality regulations, which mandate equal treatment of all users, as well as barriers to innovation and diminished product quality.
Countries such as Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Lithuania, Malta, and the Netherlands were among the critics. On the other hand, Cyprus, France, Greece, Hungary, and Italy supported the notion, while Poland, Portugal, and Romania either remained neutral or had not taken a definitive position.
Breton is expected to release a report summarizing the feedback received from Big Tech companies, telecom providers, and other stakeholders by the end of June. This report will outline his next steps. Any legislative proposal will require negotiation with EU member states and lawmakers before it can be enacted into law.