According to EU industry director Thierry Breton, the European Commission will start discussions on whether internet companies should shoulder part of the expenses of Europe’s telecoms network early next year.

Europe’s telecommunications providers have long advocated for financial contributions from US tech giants like Google, Facebook and Netflix, claiming they use a substantial chunk of internet traffic. Breton recently told reporters that the European Commission will review whether new laws are appropriate for tech giants in 2023.

GAFA accounts for half of all internet traffic

GAFA (Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon) is the French acronym for the largest US technology companies. Breton stated that the “fair share” of tech giants in supporting European telecommunications and internet infrastructure will have to be part of a broad inquiry that should include metaverse — the shared virtual worlds individuals can access over the internet.

In a May report, ETNO — Europe’s telecommunications lobby — revealed that six companies comprise more than half of worldwide network traffic: Google, Facebook, Netflix, Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft. Opponents of the plan have claimed that any additional financial commitment would jeopardize “net neutrality”, or the notion that service providers must provide access to the internet, regardless of the customer’s identity.

Maintaining net neutrality

Internet service providers, on the other hand, have stated that these firms have competing interests by offering competitive services such as voice calls and television while also utilizing their infrastructure as free riders. Breton stated that the consultation would begin in Q1 of 2023 and last five to six months. He noted that the European Commission’s suggestions would follow.

Lawmakers also stated that new policies should be in line with the fundamentals of the Open Internet Regulation, which ensures that internet service providers (ISPs) cannot block or throttle traffic to prioritize certain services.