EU Not Convinced Big Tech Must Pay “Fair Share” for 5G, Broadband Rollout

UPDATE There is no clear need to make technological giants help pay for 5G and broadband rollout, according to Belgium’s telecom regulator IBPT-BIPT, Reuters reported. Europe’s telecoms have lobbied the regulator that Big Tech companies – hyperscalers and cloud providers like Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN), Alphabet’s Google (NASDAQ: GOOG), and Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT – should help bear the cost of deploying 5G and broadband across the EU. At this juncture, enacting such a ruling likely would require waiting for the next European Commission, following European Parliament elections next year.

Twenty MNO and broadband operators across Europe including Deutsche Telekom (DTE: DE), Telefónica (NYSE: TEF), and Vodafone Group (NASDAQ: VOD), have called for what they characterize as “fair share” funding, Inside Towers reported. The telcos emphasize that massive investments are needed in 5G and fiber to underpin the next wave of digital transformation, and to support emerging applications in AI, VR and IoT. The argument is that these Big Tech companies generate a disproportionate share of data traffic on the telco networks. The Big Tech companies have countered that such an allocation would amount to an internet tax. 

“IBPT-BIPT considers that the need to oblige internet platforms to pay network operators is not sufficiently demonstrated,” IBPT-BIPT said in a report on Monday. “IBPT-BIPT considers that the need to introduce a fee based on the volume of internet traffic for the Belgian market has not been demonstrated,” it added.

The telecom providers had been expecting Thierry Breton, EU industry chief, to propose legislation after seeking feedback from both sides by the end of June on what he said is an investment gap of close to $215 billion. Breton still must put forward any proposals. Sources have said that means any legislation would have to wait for a new Commission to be in place, Reuters reported.

The Belgian regulator also said that a permanent, separate fund to help finance temporary peaks in investments may not be appropriate because plans are in place for the fiber rollout and because some rural areas will benefit from state aid.

By John Celentano, Inside Towers Business Editor

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