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Opinion | The fight between the telecommunications companies and the big internet companies will be paid by you

Date: March 26, 2023 Time: 11:59:03

I don’t know if you have heard that on February 23 the European Commission launched a public consultation, which will last until May 19, on “the future of the electronic communications sector and its infrastructure”, “to gather opinions -says “- on the potential developments of the connectivity sector and its infrastructure” and “on the changing technological and market landscape”.

I say that I do not know if you have heard (most likely not), because it seems like boring technical news about the telecommunications sector, which can only interest engineers and companies in the sector. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is a public consultation that opens a process of reflection and regulatory changes that have been claimed and prepared for a long time.

And these regulatory changes in the connectivity market are going to influence not only telecommunications or electronic communications companies, but also the large Internet companies that provide their services ‘above’ these networks, called OTT (Over The Top), and which originate 60% of the traffic and, for this reason, are also called LTO (Large Traffic Originators).

speaking in silver

To understand us: what telecommunications operators or internet connectivity companies have been trying to do -for a long time- is that service and content companies (Netflix, Google, Meta, Amazon, etc.), which increasingly require and use more space in the infrastructures of those, contribute to pay part of the necessary investments, and that they benefit from those.

Telefónica, which is leading this historic claim, has already said publicly that: “The EU must guarantee that Large Traffic Originators (LTO) have the obligation to sit down, negotiate and reach agreements on a fair and proportionate price for the services provided; which will allow network operators to invest more in digital infrastructure.”

And you will ask yourself: what does that have to do with me? It is the typical fight between two sectors that are needed and that are condemned to understand each other. And you are right. But in this fight, a third important protagonist is forgotten: you, the user, who already pays for connectivity and services. And, if the telcos force the OTT or LTO to pay them a ‘toll’, they will pass it on to you.

gigabit connectivity

The public consultation “also addresses the types of infrastructure and the amount of investment that Europe needs to lead the digital transformation in the coming years.” For this reason, the European Commission presented it within a set of actions aimed at making Gigabit connectivity available to all EU citizens and companies by 2030.

The package includes a proposed ‘Gigabit Infrastructure Law’, with new rules to enable faster, cheaper and more effective use of Gigabit networks across the EU and a draft Gigabit Recommendation, for national regulatory authorities on conditions of access to the telecommunications networks of operators with significant market power.

The need for this Gigabit connectivity is justified in the public consultation: “Digital markets and in particular connectivity markets are facing transformative market and technological developments. These include cloud data storage, the transition to edge computing, usability of the Metaverse, artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and more.”

Stakeholders and actors who benefit

The introduction says: “The exploratory consultation is part of an open dialogue with all stakeholders on the potential need for all actors who benefit from digital transformation to contribute fairly to the required investments.” And it is not very well known if it refers only to the large internet companies (OTT or LTO) or also to us, the users.

“The consultation is open to all interested parties for 12 weeks. Based on the result of the consultation, the Commission will consider the most appropriate actions for the future of the electronic communications sector. Complete the survey.” So users can also participate.

Until now there has been an intense dialogue between the European Commission (led by the Commissioner for the Internal Market) with the telecommunications operators and, less intensely, with the big internet companies, which play outside the home. We hope that there will also be a dialogue and public debate with a very interested third party: the users, who are not just stone guests.

Puck Henry
Puck Henry
Puck Henry is an editor for ePrimefeed covering all types of news.

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