EU will start consultation in 2023 to let tech companies pay for network costs

The European Union will start a consultation period next year on the possibility of having tech giants contribute to the costs of European telecom and internet networks. That period can last up to six months. A bill from the European Commission will follow.

The consultation period on sharing network costs with tech giants will kick off in the first quarter of next year, reports European Commissioner Thierry Breton to Reuters news agency. The consultation on the network infrastructure will be part of a broader discussion, which will include the metaverse. During consultation periods the EU collects feedback from stakeholders, Member States and the public, including on the size and priorities of legislative proposals. This network infrastructure consultation period is expected to last five to six months, Breton said.

This does not mean that the law will be passed, or that a proposal will soon follow. A concrete legislative proposal from the European Commission is expected in the course of 2023 at the earliest. That proposal must then be discussed by the European Parliament and Member States before it can be adopted.

The proposal to make tech giants pay a ‘fair share’ in the financing of European telecom and internet infrastructure has been around for some time. Lobby groups of European telecom companies stated earlier this year that half of all European internet traffic can be attributed to six companies: Google, Facebook, Netflix, Apple, Amazon and Microsoft. Those companies claim that the proposal threatens ‘net neutrality’, while telecom organizations claim that the tech giants are ‘piggybacking’ on their infrastructure, Reuters writes.

Earlier this week, ‘important’ MEPs sent a letter to European Commissioners Thierry Breton and Margrethe Vestager, writes Bloomberg. In it, nine MPs express their support for the proposal to have the companies that generate the most network traffic help pay for the infrastructure. They state that the law must comply with the rules for net neutrality, which ensure that internet providers are not allowed to give priority to network traffic to specific services. The letter is expected to be signed by other MEPs in the course of next week.