The European Commission has launched a consultation on the future of Europe's telecoms sector, kicking off a process that may lead to some of the world's biggest tech companies paying some money toward network costs.

Telcos have long pushed for over-the-top (OTT) tech companies such as Google, Apple, Meta, and Netflix, to pay more for the use of bandwidth.

European Commission
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Reuters notes that the consultation has been launched, stating that some of Europe's biggest telcos have been lobbying for this action for two decades.

In September of last year, 16 of Europe's leading telcos including Deutsche Telekom, Orange, and Telefonica made a collective push to pressure the European Union to draft up a legislative proposal that will see the cost of network deployment shared between operators and Big Tech companies.

Operators argue that these Big Tech firms, including Amazon and Microsoft, account for more than half of Internet data traffic.

However, Big Tech companies have pushed back, labeling the proposals as an Internet tax that undermines EU network neutrality rules to treat all users equally.

The EU's 12-week consultation will look at "fair contribution by all digital players," with tech and telecom firms asked to respond to 60 questions.

Once the consultation period concludes, legislation will likely be drafted, which will need approval from EU countries and EU lawmakers before it can become law.

Telecoms lobbying group ETNO called the proposals a 'positive and urgent step' for European end-users, but tech group Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA) is critical of the proposal

"Europeans already pay telecom operators for Internet access, they should not have to pay telcos a second time through pricier streaming and cloud services. Putting a fee on Internet traffic would hurt European consumers and undermine the open Internet by treating data differently," said senior vice president and head of CCIA Europe, Christian Borggreen.

“What we hear from big telecom CEOs is just old wine in new bottles. Nothing has changed since this idea was last rejected by Europe a decade ago. In fact, network fees already failed in the only country that has tested it. We encourage the Commission to be transparent in its evidence-gathering and analysis, and ultimately to reject this misguided idea once and for all.”

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