HomeFinancial/RegulationCan EC legislation punish net freeloaders and protect net neutrality?

    Can EC legislation punish net freeloaders and protect net neutrality?


    Big Tech must pay, France, Italy and Spain say

    France, Italy and Spain are pressing the European Commission to legislate over the financing of telecoms infrastructure, according to documents seen by Reuters. Their complaint is that the ‘Big Tech’ oligarchs that make full use of the infrastructure but make minimal contributions.

    This is the first time the three governments have taken a joint position on the issue. In May EU regulators promised to analyse the issue of contributions from the six largest content providers who, according to the paper, account for 55% of internet traffic. “This generates specific costs for European telecom operators in terms of capacity, at a time they are already hugely investing in the most costly parts of the networks with 5G and Fiber-To-The-Home,” the document said.

    The paper argued that European telecom networks and large online content providers should pay their fair share of the costs for a network ’shop floor’ that provides the ‘platforms’ from which they sell their goods. “We call for a legislative proposal … ensuring all market players contribute to digital infrastructure costs,” the document said.

    Two Italian government officials confirmed details of the joint document. One of them said their government was set to give informal support in its caretaking capacity ahead of a general election in September. The French and Spanish governments did not immediately respond to a request for comment. According to a study released by telecoms lobbying group ETNO earlier this year, an annual contribution of 20 billion euros to network costs by the tech giants could give a €72billion boost to the EU economy.

    Facebook has come in for particular criticism from free speech owners because, despite its lack of financial contribution in the infrastructure, it has begun censoring news. Both Facebook and subsidiary Instagram have been censoring criticism of US President Joe Biden after his government redefined the word recession. The increasingly officious US giant recently closed down a fan group for The Archers, a British fictional radio show, for breaking its Community Standards. The platform took issue with members of the group over what it claimed were threats issued towards fictional characters from the world’s longest-running soap opera, which is set in a genteel village called Ambridge and broadcast on Radio 4 to a small, mostly geriatric audience.

    However, digital rights activists have warned that making Big Tech pay for networks could threaten EU net neutrality rules, which they feared could be watered down in a deal with online giants to help fund telecoms network. Any legislative proposal should “ensure fairness between users in accordance with the net neutrality rules, which is a core principle we absolutely need to preserve,” the joint document said.