Telecom technology plays a massive role in almost every aspect of modern life. This has become a common talking point across the tech industry, as debates rage over who should front the cost of telecoms networks. For years, a discussion has been taking place that would see the major names in Big Tech reduced in influence. The competition chief for Europe, Margrethe Vestager, has been steadily meeting more and more individuals across the globe to try and build an influential argument for this change.
Another prominent name in this campaign is Brendan Carr, the US regulator at the Federal Communications Commission. His aim is to have major tech giants, like Google and Netflix, pay telecommunications firms on both sides of the Atlantic. Debates regarding ‘fair contributions’ to the tech sector have been talking points for years. This particular chat, though, has been around for over a decade – and so far, the movement has been minimal. Now, there are signs that a significant campaign could be taking place that changes this prospect.
For years, telecom asset management has been a major talking point. There are many benefits to managing assets in a more refined way. The physical management of everything from cell towers to internet hotspots has been a talking point for years. However, this raging campaign in Europe and America would look to change who pays for the massive costs needed to manage networks.
While in the past, requests to have major tech firms pay their fair share have fallen on deaf ears, the campaign is picking up an admirable pace at this time. This is partly to help stem the rising network costs for providers.
A Private Debate Spilled into Public
For most of this decade-long dispute, the conversations have been held behind closed doors. As regulators in Europe and America become more agreeable to the idea of a fairer contribution split, this is expected to change. Indeed, more public utterances from the major players in this debate are becoming commonplace.
Momentum is building on the sides of those who want to see operators given more support by major tech firms. The EU Commission announced in September this year that it would launch a full-scale review of the topic at hand. Should the major tech companies be taking on more of the cost of telecoms networks?
Vestager has argued that there has not been a fair enough contribution to the “enabling of investments in the rollout of connectivity.”
This has been a topic of conversation across Europe. Major European nations such as Italy, France, and Spain contribute significant sums to subsidize much-needed network upgrades. This is costing these countries substantial sums of money, though. The three nations put together a joint paper that highlighted this excruciating cost. They have also asked the commission to put together a legislative proposal based on their findings.
Carr has also been vocal on this, noting in a recent interview with the Financial Times that “the time where big tech companies were untouchable has passed.”
This is a big change in rhetoric from years gone when big tech companies could essentially do as they pleased. The need for upgrades on networks, both physical and digital, has become a major talking point across Europe and America. With hundreds of billions of dollars needed to help finance the improvements, Carr and others believe that it is time to “rebalance” the way that this money is collected.
Upgrading Networks is an Expensive Cost
The problem is that many telecom providers are having to spend billions of their own money on upgrading copper networks to fiber replacements. This is becoming a requirement as more people use extensive data daily, and more individuals are using 5G. This massive cost is nigh-impossible for companies to shoulder on their own, and asking the taxpayers of each nation to cover the price is also becoming increasingly challenging from a political perspective.
Big tech firms, though, argue that they have invested in major data centers and subsea cabling – this is, in their eyes, enough of an investment cost. They also say that ‘net neutrality’ would be harmed by asking for major tech firms to put their hand in their pocket and cover the costs. With more regulators wanting to crack down on the major tech firms, this debate will not go away anytime soon.
Indeed, Vestager was the one who placed a record fine on Google in 2018 after what was seen as an abuse of the Android mobile system marketplace. The US is considering bringing in the American Innovation and Choice Online act – one of the few policies in America to receive bipartisan support.
While any major changes are years away, the debate is beginning to pick up the pace. What was once a quiet call for action is evolving into a cross-continental demand for more.