The European Union (EU) has suggested "big tech" firms should contribute financially to the cost of building and running mobile and broadband networks because their services generate so much data.
Telcos have frequently expressed their frustration that companies such as Google, Netflix, and others have benefited from investments in fibre and cellular infrastructure, while it is operators who are forced to ensure there is enough capacity to meet demand.
5G and fibre deployments are important for many of the bloc’s economic and societal ambitions but are capital-intensive projects that require a sufficient return on investment to be attractive at a time when traditional revenue streams are under threat.
Not only do services from big tech companies use significant network resources, many compete with those provided by telecoms providers who are subject to additional regulations.
The EU has long been a proponent of net neutrality rules that forbid service providers from prioritising certain applications beyond standard traffic management measures and from charging content providers for additional fees for the preferential treatment.
However, as part of wider measures to ensure there is a more level playing field in Europe’s technology and telecoms ecosystem, there is now a recognition that the status quo may be unsustainable.
An alternative to abandoning the principles of net neutrality could be a more direct form of financial contribution.
"Because we see that there are players who generate a lot of traffic that then enables their business but who have not been contributing actually to enable that traffic. They have not been contributing to enabling the investments in the rollout of connectivity,” EU commissioner Margrethe Vestager is quoted as saying. "And we are in the process of getting a thorough understanding of how could that be enabled,"
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Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.