Google is the most visited website in the world.
Will the US company soon have to pay for fiber optic expansion in the EU?
Photo: Nicolas Economou / NurPhoto / IMAGO
A large number of European telecom companies are demanding that the Internet companies contribute to the network costs.
US tech firms like Alphabet's Google, Facebook's Meta and Netflix are responsible for more than half of internet traffic and should bear some of the cost of modernizing infrastructure, the 16 European telecoms operators said in a joint statement on Monday.
Signatories include Deutsche Telekom, France's Orange, Telefónica and Vodafone.
The reasons given by the providers for the demand are compliance with the EU climate targets and the increased prices in view of the energy crisis: “The costs for planning and construction work are increasing.
The prices for fiber optic cables, for example, almost doubled in the first half of 2022,” the companies explained.
The industry invests around 50 billion euros in infrastructure every year and urgently needs more money, said the CEOs.
The telecommunications company's idea is anything but new: as early as 2010, Telefónica suggested that Google contribute to the expansion costs, the Spanish newspaper El País reported.
It was never specified.
Telekom, Telefónica & Co. made a similar statement last year, referring to the increased burden on the infrastructure in the corona crisis.
Google rejected the repeated request from the telecom companies.
The arguments are the same as ten years ago and nothing has changed in the initial situation, Google's European boss Matt Brittin said on Monday.
"The idea of introducing a 'Who sends, pays' principle is not new and would call into question many principles of the open Internet," he said.
EU law in planning
The current reason for the debate is an initiative by the EU Commission.
This is currently exploring the possibilities of a legal regulation.
According to this, tech companies that make money primarily from content and services could be obliged to contribute to the costs of expanding 5G and fiber optic cables in the 27 countries of the European Union.
The companies approached have so far rejected such claims, saying they are already investing in equipment and technology to deliver content more efficiently.
Google, for example, announced last year that it would invest around one billion euros in Germany by 2030, including for the construction of two data centers near Hanau and Berlin.
The investments made by the Silicon Valley companies also include submarine cables that run, among other things, between the USA and Europe.
Last year, Facebook commissioned the Japanese company NEC to install a second Facebook cable across the Atlantic.