European Carriers Again Call For Big Tech To Fund Network Builds

The European Telecommunications Network Operators' Association (ETNO) has again called for big technology companies – and especially video streamers – to pay for their share of internet infrastructure.

A Monday statement signed by 16 telco bosses from across the continent calls on the European Commission to adopt policies that prioritize sustainability of the planet and the telecoms industry.

The document argues the two sustainability objectives are intertwined because better digital infrastructure will reduce pressure on physical resources.

But the CEOs believe they're being asked to do all the heavy lifting to fund and build that infrastructure, and with 5G builds ongoing and metaverses just around the corner they argue it's unfair to be asked to pay for it alone.

"We believe that the largest traffic generators should make a fair contribution to the sizeable costs they currently impose on European networks," the document states.

"In addition, a fair contribution would send a clear financial signal for streamers in relation to the data growth associated with their use of scarce network resources," the document states. The CEOs also suggest having streamers pay up could "benefit tech companies, who rely the most on massive network upgrades, as we move to an age of open and connectivity-enabled metaverses."

ETNO issued a very similar letter in November 2021 when it made "Big Tech platforms" the villain.

In the months since the GSM Association weighed in with a similar opinion and data claiming that Alphabet, Meta, Netflix, Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft together account for 57 percent of all network traffic and 57 percent of global profits earned in the "internet value chain".

The GSM Association points out that Big Tech also enjoys very high profit margins, while carriers are burdened with disproportionate capital expenditure and operate at far lower margins.

Big Tech does invest in networks but focuses on infrastructure that ensures its own services are efficient. Carriers are left to build the networks that funnel traffic to Big Tech – even though doing so strains their finances.

The statement should be well received by the European Commission, which has already backed a Green Digital Coalition to promote the environmental sustainability benefits that can flow from digital technology. The Commission has also seldom been shy of giving Big Tech a kicking over competition issues and may relish the chance to have another crack on the issue of infrastructure costs.

The letter was signed by CEOs from Swisscom, Telekom Austria Group, United Group, Bouygues Telecom, Proximus Group, Telenor Group, Fastweb, Altice Portugal, Orange Group, Deutsche Telekom, BT Group, Telia, TIM Group, Telefónica, Vodafone Group, and the chair of Dutch carrier KPN. ®

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