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EU wants telcos to prove Netflix, YouTube should pay for traffic

The European Commission wants telecom companies to provide evidence that streaming sites such as Netflix Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s YouTube should pay for the additional traffic sent over their networks, according to a document seen by Bloomberg.

The commission plans to ask telecommunications companies how much traffic has increased in the past three years, where it’s coming from and what the higher demand is costing them, according to a draft of the questionnaire from early April.

Some European Union officials have been gearing up to propose a “fair share” remuneration policy that would require companies that produce streaming videos and other data-heavy applications to pay telecom operators for the amount of traffic they send over networks. Telecom companies would then re-invest that money to upgrade their infrastructure.

The idea has sparked a fierce debate in Europe, with parliamentarians and open internet campaigners raising concerns alongside the tech giants that these rules could hurt net neutrality, creating a two-tiered internet.

EU countries including Germany and the Netherlands urged the commission this summer to wait for a final analysis from the EU’s telecom regulating body, as well as open consultations with the bloc’s members and the public, before moving ahead with a proposal, according to another document previously reported by Bloomberg.

Other countries like France and Italy increased pressure on the commission to move ahead with a remuneration proposal, according to a Reuters report last month.

The questionnaire will also ask the tech companies how much their own costs have increased and to describe their relationships with telecom operators and whether there are any signs of “market failure” in how content is delivered on networks.

The commission has yet to send the list of questions to companies, a person familiar with the plans said. The EU’s largest telecom companies include Telefonica SA, Vodafone Group Plc, Deutsche Telekom AG and Orange SA.

A final proposal will be ready at the end of this year or beginning of 2023 at the earliest, and the commission plans to finalize the questionnaire in the coming weeks, the person said, asking not to be identified because the plans are still private. Bloomberg

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