A recent report from Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI) concludes that EU Member States have made significant progress in their digital transition. In fact, the European Internet Regulation ensures that citizens are free to use whichever apps and websites they wish, businesses can acquire new customers, and innovators can build new services. According to DESI, basic broadband infrastructure is by now available to all Europeans and 70% of households are covered by Gigabit networks. At the same time, network traffic patterns have increased dramatically over the past years and have been further accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which caused a massive move to telework and a video streaming surge. This surge in data traffic has required massive investments in ensuring that Gigabit connectivity networks are up to the task, which has enormously benefited those online platforms that have driven most of such traffic. The Commission proposal of a Declaration on digital rights and principles already commits the EU to “developing adequate frameworks so that all market actors benefiting from the digital transformation assume their social responsibilities and make a fair and proportionate contribution to the costs of public goods, services and infrastructures, for the benefit of all Europeans”. According to the European Commission, it is time to assess whether and how the major providers of online content should contribute to the costs of digital networks that have allowed them to thrive.
In this context, the European Commission made a significant statement in consideration of the upcoming Connectivity Infrastructure Act to be proposed in this autumn to indicate that a new provision would require payments from online service providers to broadband providers – ostensibly to fund the rollout of 5G and fiber to the home. The idea behind this statement is to require from content providers compensation to be paid to large telecom companies for providing access to customers. This is the continuous “debate” between content providers (Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, HBO Max, Paramount etc.) and Internet Service Providers (ISPs such as Orange, Deutsche Telecom, Verizon, T-mobile etc.) regarding whether the content providers shall financially contribute to the growth and investments of Telcos infrastructure (bandwidth, submarine cable etc.). At the core of this debate, the speakers will introduce the intent of EU Commission to challenge the Net Neutrality principle which has been voted by the EU Parliament in 2015. Net Neutrality principle is the principle that ISPs must treat all Internet communications equally, offering users and online content providers consistent rates irrespective of content, website, platform, application, type of equipment, source address, destination address, or method of communication. This new European position might have impact of which transcends European frontiers.