Exclusive-Telcos draw up proposal to charge Big Tech for EU 5G rollout

By Supantha Mukherjee and Elvira Pollina

STOCKHOLM/MILAN (Reuters) -Big tech companies accounting for more than 5% of a telecoms provider's peak average internet traffic should help fund the rollout of 5G and broadband across Europe, according to a draft proposal by the telecoms industry.

The proposal is part of feedback to the European Commission which launched a consultation into the issue in February. The deadline for responses is Friday.

Alphabet's Google, Apple, Facebook-owner Meta, Amazon, Netflix and TikTok would most likely be hit with fees, according to industry estimates.

Google, Apple, Meta, Netflix, Amazon and Microsoft together account for more than half of data internet traffic.

The document, which was reviewed by Reuters and has not been published, was compiled by telecoms lobbying groups GSMA and ETNO. They represent 160 operators in Europe, including Deutsche Telekom, Orange, Telefonica and Telecom Italia.

Telecom operators have lobbied for years for leading technology companies to help foot the bill for 5G and broadband roll-out, saying that they create a huge part of the region's internet traffic. This is the first time they have tried to define a threshold for who should pay.

"We propose a clear threshold to ensure that only large traffic generators, who impact substantially on operators’ networks, fall within the scope," the draft said.

"Large traffic generators would only be those companies that account for more than 5% of an operator's yearly average busy hour traffic measured at the individual network level," it said.

The Commission declined to comment.

Meta on Wednesday urged Brussels to reject any proposals to charge Big Tech for additional network costs.

In a blog, Markus Reinisch, Meta's VP for Public Policy for Europe, described potential fees as a "private sector handout for selected telecom operators" that would disincentivise innovation and investment, and distort competition.

"We urge the Commission to consider the evidence, listen to the range of organisations who have voiced concerns, and abandon these misguided proposals as quickly as possible," he said.

(Reporting by Supantha Mukherjee in Stockholm and Elvira Pollina in Milan; additional reporting by Foo Yun Chee in Brussels; Editing by Josephine Mason, Christina Fincher and Keith Weir)