Internet providers demand Big Tech need not share telecoms costs

A group representing internet service providers (ISPs) across Europe said that a proposal to make Big Tech companies pay towards telecom operators’ network costs could create systemic weakness in critical infrastructure.
LTE subscribers with InternetLeading telecom operators have asked the European Union to implement laws that would force U.S. tech firms like Alphabet’s Google, Meta’s Facebook, and Netflix to share some of the costs of Europe’s telecoms network, arguing that they drive much of the region’s broadband traffic.

In September, European Commission’s industry chief Thierry Breton said he would launch a consultation on fair share payments in early 2023, before proposing legislation.

The European Internet Exchange Association (Euro-IX) said the proposals risked reducing the quality of service for internet users across Europe, and could accidentally create new systemic weaknesses in critical infrastructure, in a letter addressed to the European Commission’s industry chief Thierry Breton and the Executive Vice President Margrethe Vestager.

Bijal Sanghani, managing director of Euro-IX, said legislators should not prioritize administrative rules over technical necessity or a high-quality internet for those in Europe.

Critics of the proposed SPNP (Sending Party Network Pays) model have warned the traffic tax could lead content-driven platforms like Facebook and other social media platforms to route their services via ISPs (internet service providers) outside of the EU.

This could have a knock-on effect for users in Europe, with platforms potentially compromising quality and security for the sake of avoiding fees. Alternatively, they could pay the fees, but pass the costs onto end-users.

Opponents argue the proposals undermine the bloc’s rules on net neutrality, under which ISPs cannot block or throttle traffic to prioritize some services over others, Reuters news report said.

In June, a coalition of digital rights activists warned that introducing SPNP rules would undermine and conflict with core net neutrality protections in the European Union.

In a letter signed by 34 NGOs from 17 countries, critics said telecom companies were compensated by their own customers, and accused them of pushing for charges on traffic usage because they simply want to be paid twice for the same service.