Tech giants such as Google, Meta and Netflix may have to bear some of the cost of Europe’s telecoms network, Europe’s digital chief Margrethe Vestager said on Monday, following EU telecoms operators’ complaints.
“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,” Vestager told a news conference.
“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,” she said.
“And we are in the process of getting a thorough understanding of how could that be enabled,” Vestager said, adding that she was looking into how data traffic evolves over time and that related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to a study released by telecoms lobbying group ETNO on Monday, Meta, Alphabet, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft and Netflix accounted for over 56% of all global data traffic last year.
The study said an annual contribution of 20 billion euros ($21 billion) to network costs by the tech giants could give a 72-billion-euro boost to the EU economy. ETNO’s members include Deutsche Telekom and Orange.
Vestager, however, gave short shrift to the telecoms industry’s calls to loosen EU merger rules to allow more consolidation.
“The problem is that the arguments that we hear, like the need for scale in order to invest, they are not new,” she said.