EU Digital Chief Vestager: Big Tech Should Help Pay Telecom Bill

Google, Meta, Netflix and other tech firms may have to pay some of the cost of Europe’s telecom network, the European Commission’s Margrethe Vestager said Monday (May 2).

As Reuters reported, Vestager, who serves as the commission’s digital chief, made these remarks at a news conference, saying they were in response to complaints from telecom operators.

“I think there is an issue that we need to consider with a lot of focus, and that is the issue of fair contribution to telecommunication networks,” she said, per the report. “Because we see that there are players who generate a lot of traffic that then enables their business but who have not been contributing actually to enable that traffic. They have not been contributing to enabling the investments in the rollout of connectivity.”

“And we are in the process of getting a thorough understanding of how could that be enabled,” Vestager said, adding that she is looking into how data traffic evolves over time.

Her comments came one day after the release of an industry report that said Big Tech and video streaming services should have to bear some of the nearly $30 billion they cost European telecommunications groups for their dominance of network infrastructure.

Read more: EU Telcos Want Big Tech and Streamers to Invest in Their Networks

The report, conducted by consulting firm Axon, said Amazon, Meta and Netflix make up more than 55% of the region’s mobile and broadband network traffic, at a cost of between $15.8 billion and $29.4 billion, according to research from European Telecommunications Network Operators’ Association (ETNO).

The report said a contribution of $21 billion to telecom companies to pay for and increase network investment could create 840,000 new jobs over the next three years and “significantly reduce energy consumption in the sector,” as it would lead to more spending on 5G and fiber.

“We want to launch an open dialogue with policymakers, consumers and tech companies on how to address the specific imbalances in internet traffic markets,” said ETNO Director-General Lise Fuhr in the report.

Vestager has dismissed the telecom industry’s calls to loosen European Union merger rules to allow more consolidation, Reuters reported.

“The problem is that the arguments that we hear, like the need for scale in order to invest, they are not new,” she said, per Reuters.