‘There is no taboo’ on mergers in EU telecom shakeup, says Breton

EU Commissioner Thierry Breton said there would be “no taboo” as the European Commission considers requiring telecom groups to pay Big Tech to deploy their networks and whether to relax regulations. rules surrounding market consolidation.

Speaking at the Mobile World Congress global telecom conference in Barcelona, ​​Breton, who oversees the EU’s internal market, warned the industry’s business model would have to undergo a “radical change”. when he gave a 12-week consultation on telecommunications infrastructure.

“It is time for us to seriously discuss possible obstacles to cross-border integration,” he added, which he sees as “holding back our shared potential relative to other continents.” other continents”.

The review has been seen by many as a referendum on whether Big Tech and video streaming companies should give telecommunications corporations a “fair” share of the billions of dollars they are working on. invest to deploy 5G and fiber optic networks entirely or not.

While tech companies have long opposed what advocates call a “fair contribution” to network costs, there have been signs that regulators in both Europe and the United States are in trouble. Ky is becoming more supportive of this argument.

Breton emphasized on Monday that the issue “is not whether one vested interest prevails over another” but rather “getting the giant leap in connectivity ahead of us.” we”.

Deutsche Telekom, Orange, Telefónica and Telecom Italia have stepped up their lobbying efforts, pointing out that technology platforms account for more than 50% of traffic made across networks and contribute a smaller share. much to the infrastructure that underpins them.

Netflix and Google have voiced their opposition to these proposals more recently, arguing that they have contributed a lot to internet infrastructure by investing in data centers and underground cables, as well as developing new ones. services that customers want to use on smartphones and computers.

They also say the proposal undermines the principle of “net neutrality”, which prohibits broadband providers from blocking any user’s web access.

Asked if he would consider allowing for more domestic consolidation among telecom operators – something companies across Europe have long called for – Breton said the consultation ” very open” and “nothing is taboo”.

Pietro Labriola, chief executive of Telecom Italia, told the Financial Times: “If we win the fight for fair market share but we are not allowed to merge, that will not solve the fundamental problem. copy.”

He added that the committee’s consultation indicated that “something different is finally happening,” adding that Breton “understands the challenges” of the field because he himself is a telecommunications executive.

Breton was the chief executive officer of France Telecom, now Orange, until 2005.

“There is a difference between theory and practice, and he understands the reality,” he said. “If you look across Europe today, everyone is in trouble, everyone is looking for market consolidation, everyone is seeing that they are no longer profitable. If you want a telecommunications sector in Europe, you need to step in now.”

Christian Borggreen, senior vice president of the Computer & Communications Industry Association, which represents the interests of tech groups, argued last week that “charging for internet traffic would hurt. for European consumers and undermine the open internet by treating data differently.”

He urged the committee to “reject this false idea once and for all.”


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