EU legislation on Big Tech funding 5G rollout likely for next Commission, sources say

EU industry chief Thierry Breton is expected to unveil a strategy next year that would require tech giants to contribute to the funding of 5G and broadband deployment across Europe, according to sources familiar with the matter. While the decision to adopt legislation will be left to the next European Commission, telecoms operators in Europe argue that companies like Google, Facebook, Netflix, Microsoft, and Amazon should bear some of the costs due to their significant share of internet traffic.

The proposal, known as fair-share funding, has received support from major telecoms operators including Deutsche Telekom, Orange, Telefonica, and Telecom Italia. They believe it is only fair for Big Tech to contribute financially, given their substantial presence in the digital landscape. However, tech giants have voiced their concerns, referring to the proposal as an “internet tax.”

Earlier this year, Breton sought feedback from both sides on the matter, highlighting an investment gap of €200 billion ($212.4 billion). While it was anticipated that legislation would be proposed, the French commissioner faced opposition from fellow commissioners and some EU countries. As of now, no final decision has been made, and the possibility of a legislative proposal on funding remains open.

The European Commission’s upcoming work programme, set to be announced on October 18, will outline the long-term objectives of the EU executive. It is expected to shed light on whether the funding issue will be addressed through legislation.

The deployment of 5G and broadband infrastructure is crucial for Europe’s digital transformation and economic growth. By involving tech giants in funding these initiatives, the EU aims to bridge the investment gap and ensure widespread access to high-speed connectivity. This move could potentially foster collaboration between telecoms operators and Big Tech, leading to innovative solutions and advancements in the digital landscape.

As the discussions continue, it is important to strike a balance that benefits all stakeholders involved. The positive impact of 5G and broadband deployment on businesses, consumers, and the overall European economy cannot be understated. By working together, telecoms operators and tech giants can contribute to a more connected and prosperous Europe.

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