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SCIENCE & TECH: Big tech should share Europe network costs – France, Italy, Spain document

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By Elvira Pollina and Giuseppe Fonte

MILAN (Reuters) -France, Italy and Spain are stepping up pressure on the European Commission to come up with legislation that ensures Big Tech firms partly finance telecoms infrastructure in the bloc, a document showed on Monday.

This was the first time the three governments have expressed their joint position on the issue.

EU regulators said in May they were analysing the question of whether tech giants Alphabet’s Google, Meta and Netflix should shoulder some of the costs of upgrading telecoms networks.

In a joint paper, a copy of which was seen by Reuters, the three governments said the six largest content providers accounted for 55% of internet traffic.

“This generates specific costs for European telecom operators in terms of capacity, at a time they are already hugely investing in the most costly parts of the networks with 5G and Fiber-To-The-Home,” the document said.

It urged that European telecom networks and large online content providers pay fair shares of network costs.

“We call for a legislative proposal … ensuring all market players contribute to digital infrastructure costs,” the document said.

Two Italian government officials confirmed details of the joint document. One of them said Rome’s government was set to give informal support in its caretaking capacity ahead of a general election in September.

The French and Spanish governments did immediately respond to a request for comment.

According to a study released by telecoms lobbying group ETNO earlier this year, an annual contribution of 20 billion euros to network costs by the tech giants could give a 72-billion-euro boost to the EU economy.

However, digital rights activists have warned making Big Tech pay for networks could threaten EU net neutrality rules, which they feared could be watered down in a deal with online giants to help fund telecoms network.

Any legislative proposal should “ensure fairness between users in accordance with the net neutrality rules, which is a core principle we absolutely need to preserve,” the joint document said.

(Reporting by Elvira Pollina in Milan and Giuseppe Fonte in Rome; Editing by Valentina Za and Cynthia Osterman)

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