It’s Groundhog Day at the European Commission

Publication Type: 
Other Writing
Publication Date: 
June 30, 2024

Response to the European Commission’s White Paper “How to master Europe’s digital infrastructure needs?

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Even though it’s summer, it appears to be Groundhog Day again at the European Commission.

It’s time for yet another proposal from the European Commission to require websites and applications to pay so-called “network fees” to the largest ISPs in Europe. Network fee proposals would force websites and applications to pay broadband companies like Telefonica, Orange, and Deutsche Telekom, so the largest ISPs can get paid twice for delivering the traffic the ISPs’ customers requested – once by their own internet service customers, and once by the sites and apps these customers are using.

These kinds of fees were proposed by Europe’s largest telecom companies more than 12 years ago and were rejected at the time by Europe’s top telecom regulator BEREC, European governments, the European Commission, and the ITU. They were rejected again by BEREC in a report in 2022, and thoroughly opposed by everyone except the largest ISPs and their trade associations in last year’s Commission consultation on the future of the electronic communications sector and its infrastructure.

Last year, the justification for these network fees was that there was a supposed massive investment gap that would keep Europe from meeting its 2030 goals of having 5G and fiber to the home for everyone in the EU.
But the Commission’s fuzzy math last year has been solidly refuted. European ISPs continue to invest in next generation networks, with coverage comparable to or exceeding that in comparable countries. Europe is on track to meeting its 2030 deployment goals, with only minimal need for public funding for build outs in rural areas that would otherwise be unprofitable.

And, thanks to robust competition, broadband remains affordable in Europe – often shockingly so to Americans.

The European Commission ought to be celebrating, but instead the Commission’s reaction is to release a White Paper, which could be entitled Doom and Gloom: The Danger of Europe Becoming a Digital Backwater.