Google, Facebook, Big Tech Must Pay Network Costs, Urge EU Telcos

Telecom workers are pushing the European Union to implement new rules that would make Big Tech pay for network costs, following Australia’s example, according to four sources close to the matter.

European telecommunications operators are demanding financial support from US tech companies such as Alphabet’s Google, Meta’s Facebook and Netflix, saying they consume a large portion of the region’s internet traffic.

The latest proposal, which has not yet been reported, is being discussed at the GSMA, an organization that represents more than 750 mobile phones.

“The GSMA is coordinating a proposal that addresses the contribution of Big Tech to European infrastructure investment,” said John Giusti, GSMA’s managing director, without elaborating on the content of the proposal.

The letter will be sent to EU industry chief Thierry Breton in the next five to six weeks, Giusti said.

Google, Facebook, Netflix, Amazon did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The proposal comes ahead of the 27-nation body’s consultation on a so-called “fair share” offer from Google, Netflix, Meta and Amazon, which account for more than half of Internet traffic.

These platforms reject this idea and treat it as an internet traffic tax.

Australia’s recently adopted antitrust laws against Google and Facebook have emerged as a favorite weapon of telecom operators in their fight against Big Tech companies, sources say.

The rules, originally intended to force tech giants to pay for online news content, allow an arbitrator appointed by the Australian government to impose payments if major technology companies and news publishers fail to find common ground regarding copyright.

Rupert Murdoch News last year reached a content provision deal with Meta’s Facebook in Australia under the rules, helping to end a dispute that saw the social media giant briefly shut down thousands of pages in the country.

Under Australia’s so-called “final-offer arbitration”, the parties must negotiate in good faith. But if no agreement can be reached between them, they must present their offers and refer to the arbitrator to choose one.

The goal is to encourage tech giants and media publishers to reach an agreement before they are forced to go through this final process.

Telecom operators that are part of the GSMA, including some of Europe’s majors such as Orange, Deutsche Telekom and Telefonica, agree that Australia’s approach is the best, the sources said.

No official text has yet been sent to Breton, sources said. Officials are debating whether the proposal will be made by GSMA directly or by a senior management team, one of the sources said.

Breton said he would seek feedback from both parties before writing legislation.

© Thomson Reuters 2022

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