European operators want platforms to contribute towards infrastructure

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A number of large European operators are calling for content platforms to contribute towards the cost of infrastructure.

In a joint statement, the CEOs of Vodafone, Telefónica, Deutsche Telekom, and Orange have expressed their opinion that content platforms should contribute towards building the connectivity infrastructure they rely on.

“The current situation is simply not sustainable. The investment burden must be shared in a more proportionate way,” claim the CEOs.

“Today, video streaming, gaming, and social media – originated by a few digital content platforms – account for over 70 percent of all traffic running over the networks. Digital platforms are profiting from hyper scaling business models at little cost while network operators shoulder the required investments in connectivity.”

The CEOs point towards data traffic increasing by up to 50 percent annually and claim they’re unable to make a viable return on their investments. They say it puts further infrastructure development at risk.

Many readers will remember the “net neutrality” debate. Without net neutrality, operators can essentially create “fast” and “slow” lanes dependent on whether a service contributed towards infrastructure costs or not, or whether a consumer has paid for an upgrade like HD video or game streaming.

This idea drew fierce opposition due to competition concerns around some services being given preferential treatment, startups having more difficulty competing against established players who can afford a “fast” lane, and a belief that it goes against internet freedom.

In the statement, the CEOs of the European operators take care to specify their view that “large” digital content platforms should contribute towards costs.

Following the success of the Netflix series Squid Game, South Korean broadband firm SK Broadband sued the streaming giant over the costs it claims to have incurred from increased network traffic and maintenance work. South Korea is now considering a national law that would see such services contributing towards costs.

In Europe, the European Commission has committed to developing frameworks so that “all market players benefiting from the digital transformation (…) make a fair and proportionate contribution to the costs of public goods, services and infrastructures”.

The CEOs say they welcome the Commission’s pledge and call upon legislators to introduce rules to make it a reality.

“The clock is ticking loudly, particularly given the huge investments still required to achieve the connectivity targets for 2030 set by the European Commission in its Communication on the European Digital Decade,” claim the CEOs.

“Without an equitable solution, we will not get there.”

(Photo by USGS on Unsplash)

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