By Foo Yun Chee

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The Dutch government has stepped up its criticism of pressure from EU telecoms operators for Big Tech to help pay for 5G and broadband rollout, saying claims that runaway data growth has High network costs are not supported by facts.

Rather than a one-size-fits-all approach, like a network fee charged to video streaming companies, it would be better to have a toolbox with different instruments addressing specific problems in different EU countries, he said.

The comments were set out in a position paper shared with the European Commission and EU countries ahead of a meeting of EU telecoms ministers in Luxembourg on Friday.

“In reality, contrary to all these persistent claims, strong Internet data growth in the past did not pit large telecom operators against higher network costs,” the document seen by Reuters said.

“This is because network equipment is getting more and more powerful for the same price. By omitting this crucial information, you are suggesting a problem that doesn’t exist.”

The issue pits Deutsche Telekom, Orange, Telefonica and Telecom Italia against Alphabet Inc’s Google, Apple Inc, Meta Platforms Inc, Netflix Inc, Inc and Microsoft Corp.

“In reality, total network costs have remained constant despite consistently high growth over the past decades, while European telecom operators’ profit margins have improved significantly over the past decade,” the newspaper said.

“Protecting the big telecom operators should not be a goal in itself, as the interests of European consumers and businesses should lead,” the Dutchman said, citing the 188 billion euros in combined revenue from the big providers. telecoms in the EU in 2021 compared to Netflix’s 9 billion. euros in annual income.

They said that direct payments are not justified as end users already pay for their access line, including network traffic costs, while such an intervention would affect the functioning of the Internet.

The Dutch also criticized calls for antitrust regulators to relax merger rules to allow for the creation of very large pan-European telecoms champions.

“The synergies for such cross-border telecom operator mergers are generally considered to be relatively limited, while there do not appear to be compelling benefits to society at large.”

(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

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