Networks: defeat for telcos in dispute over cost sharing by Big Tech

networks defeat for telcos in dispute over cost sharing by.jpg
networks defeat for telcos in dispute over cost sharing by.jpg

The EU bodies have agreed on a policy program for the “digital decade”. The infrastructure fee required by the federal states is not included.

Setback for the major European network operators: Their demand that US platforms such as Amazon, Apple, Google, Meta, Microsoft and Netflix should share in the expansion costs for telecommunications infrastructure is now not part of the EU policy program “Weg in the digital decade”.

The fact that “Big Tech” should share directly in the costs of the infrastructure that they use for their business has long been a central concern of large European network operators such as Deutsche Telekom, Orange, Telefónica and Vodafone. With the support of their European association Etno, they had been drumming up more for an infrastructure fee in recent months.

In May, the member states represented in the Council of Ministers took up the wishes of the telcos in their position on the digital agenda. “Market participants who benefit from the digital transformation” should “make a fair and reasonable contribution to the costs of public goods, services and infrastructure, which benefits all Europeans”.

The ministers justify this with uniform requirements for investments in digital infrastructures and the development of appropriate framework conditions for network expansion. After all, according to the EU Commission’s draft, “networks with gigabit speeds should be available to all households and companies at affordable conditions” within the next eight years.

In the version that the negotiators of the EU Parliament, the Council and the Commission agreed on on Thursday, the reference to the controversial infrastructure fee is missing. MEPs managed to remove any reference to the “fair contribution” required of member states, reports the portal “Euractiv”. Instead, the talk is now of receiving non-discriminatory access for all users. The final text is not yet available as it is still being revised.

Parliament’s Industry Committee had already opposed the Council’s initiative in May and referred to the need to protect net neutrality. On Tuesday, more than 50 members of parliament from various parliamentary groups sharply criticized the “radical” plans for Big Tech to share the costs of expanding the network. According to them, EU citizens are dependent on a free and open Internet, so “important guarantees of net neutrality” should not be abolished.

The infrastructure tax is not off the table yet: Margrete Vestager, Vice President of the Commission responsible for digital affairs, and Thierry Breton, Commissioner for the Internal Market, have repeatedly spoken out in favor of Big Tech participating. The Frenchman wants to propose a “connectivity infrastructure law” in the fall. It is still unclear whether the Commission will scrap the plan in the face of ongoing opposition from Parliament.

Core goals of the program for the digital decade: All essential public administration services should be available digitally everywhere by 2030, 5G is online throughout Europe, almost all citizens have basic digital skills. The Agenda aims to put the EU in a digital leadership role and promote an inclusive and sustainable digital policy at the service of citizens and businesses. To this end, the EU is setting concrete goals in the areas of skills, infrastructure and the digitization of the economy and public services, which are to be achieved by the end of the decade.

In the provisional agreement, the focus is on “strengthening fundamental rights, transparency and security as well as the promotion of digital skills,” according to the Council. “Progress will be monitored based on the Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI) and assessed in the Commission’s annual report on the ‘State of the Digital Decade'”. The member states pledged to draw up guidelines and strategic roadmaps. The instruments are to be reviewed in 2026.

The compromise reached also provides a mechanism for cooperation between Member States and the Commission. With the European Consortium for Digital Infrastructure (EDIC), a separate forum is being created to inspire transnational projects. The agreement still has to be approved by the Council and Parliament, which is considered a formality.


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Brian Adam
Professional Blogger, V logger, traveler and explorer of new horizons.