Some 13 CEOs from telecom companies across Europe have prepared a joint statement calling for Big Tech companies to contribute in covering network costs and investments in 5G, fiber, and cable networks. The CEOs claim that Big Tech companies are responsible for a large pool of network traffic and are profiteering, while the telcos are left behind to maintain and invest in the networks, which is putting them under increasing economic strain.

The group of telcos, led by Deutsche Telekom, BT, and Vodafone, contend that the only sustainable way for EU citizens “to enjoy the fruits of the digital transformation” is if “big tech platforms also contribute fairly to network costs.” The telcos estimate that their collective investments have reached a six-year high of €52.5 billion per year.

Big Tech benefits from telco investments

The surge in consumer and enterprise data traffic and exposure to the digital divide fueled by the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic have put an economic strain on telcos across Europe and the rest of the world as demand has increased for wider and better internet coverage, which is being addressed in part by intense and rapid 5G and fiber deployment. It is, therefore, reasonable for telcos to not want to face the burden of addressing the digital needs of the world alone, especially given the fact that US Big Tech companies, namely Google, Facebook, and Netflix, have profited from this need as video streaming and social media use has increased dramatically.

Aside from addressing Big Tech, the CEOs also called for regulators to end high spectrum prices and auctions that they contend artificially force unsustainable entrants into the market. Furthermore, the CEOs criticized the European Commission’s proposal to remove surcharges on calls made within the EU as that contradicts Europe’s Digital Decade targets for 2030, suggesting that the proposal would remove over €2 billion in revenues from the sector over four years, which is equivalent to 2.5% of the sector’s yearly investment capacity for mobile infrastructure.

The 13 CEOs included in the joint statement are: Thomas Arnoldner (A1 Telekom Austria Group), Nikolai Andreev (Vivacom), Guillaume Boutin (Proximus Group), Sigve Brekke (Telenor Group), Joost Farwerck (KPN), Alexandre Fonseca (Altice Portugal), Timotheus Hottges (Deutsche Telekom), Philip Jansen (BT Group), Allison Kirkby (Telia Company), Jose Maria Alvarez Pallete (Telefonica), Nick Read (Vodafone Group), Stephane Richard (Orange Group), Urs Schaeppi (Swisscom).