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European telcos call for Big Tech to share broadband network costs amid energy crisis

Big Tech should pay broadband network costs say BT, Vodafone and other major European telcos, as costs escalate in the energy crisis.

By Matthew Gooding

Major European telecoms providers including Deutsche Telecom, Vodafone and BT have joined forces to call on Big Tech to share the cost of providing network infrastructure.

Installing broadband infrastructure is an expensive business. Telcos think Big Tech should share the cost. (Photo by Dmitry Kalinovsky/Shutterstock)

CEOs of 13 of the continent’s biggest telcos have signed a joint statement, saying companies such as Google and Amazon, which rely on telecoms networks to deliver their services, should invest in infrastructure. US-based Big Tech firms account for more than half of traffic on European networks, the statement says.

The European Union is currently mulling legislation which could force tech companies to foot the bill for some network upgrades as more homes and businesses demand 5G gigabit connections.

Big Tech must help with rising broadband network costs – telcos

According to the statement, seen by Reuters, the CEOs say the energy crisis, and the EU’s climate change goals, mean their costs are spiralling upwards.

It says the sector invests €50bn a year in infrastructure and needs more funding if it is to keep up with demand.

“Costs of planning and construction works are increasing,” the statement says. “Prices for fibre optic cables, for example, have almost doubled in the first semester of 2022. Similarly, the hikes in energy prices and in the prices of other inputs are also hitting the connectivity sector.

“We believe that the largest traffic generators should make a fair contribution to the sizeable costs they currently impose on European networks.”

The statement is also signed by the likes of France’s Bouygues Telecom, Telefonica, Fastweb, Orange and Altice Portugal

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Connectivity key to Europe’s quest for digital sovereignty

Big Tech has previously declined to put money into infrastructure, saying they are already investing in equipment and technologies to deliver content more efficiently, Reuters reports.

Earlier this year, European Commissioner Thierry Breton said the commission would look at whether Big Tech should be asked to fund networks after nine MEPs wrote to him requesting such a move.

“This fairer contribution should not be discriminatory against specific companies, but reflect the role and impact of those generating the most traffic in the network,” the letter said.

Digital sovereignty has become a key issue for the EU in recent years, and building strong networks on the continent, through initiatives like the GAIA-X cloud standards programme, is important for this strategy.

In their statement, the telco executives say: “Timely action is a must: Europe missed out on many of the opportunities offered by the consumer internet. It must now swiftly build strength for the age of the metaverses.”

Read more: Boris Johnson’s government played a limited role in the 5G roll out

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