European ISPs Faulted For Wanting Network Fees In U.S.

Jan 24, 2024

By Ted Hearn, Editor of Policyband

Washington, D.C., Jan. 24, 2024 – A European association of broadband providers wants Google, Facebook and Netflix to pay fees to offset their investments in Internet network technology, a controversial proposal debated by European regulators in recent years.

But now the European Telecommunications Network Operators’ Association (ETNO) is taking heat for seeking out the same fees before the Federal Communications Commission as agency officials draft a new set of Net Neutrality policies designed to keep the Internet free of pay-to-play arrangements.

Taking on the Brussels-based ETNO is the Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA) in a tartly worded letter today to the FCC that faulted ETNO for attempting “to bring to the U.S. an initiative twice rejected by European regulators: Network Usage Fees.”

According to CClA, ETNO supports a Sending Party Network Pays (SPNP) model design to shift network investment costs to third parties. Last month, the live gaming service Twitch said it is leaving South Korea in February over the country’s SPNP rules and their prohibitively large fees.

ETNO – whose members include BT, Altice and T-Mobile – filed comments with the FCC last month arguing for network payments from dominant content providers that place heavy demands on Internet infrastructure.

“European telecom operators are of the view that today an economic incentive for large content providers to use network capacity efficiently is lacking,” the ETNO said, adding that “mechanisms which enable commercial conversations with large content providers to agree [to] mutually beneficial value exchange” (also known as a ‘fair contribution’ mechanism) would help address the current imbalance of power in the Internet ecosystem.”

CCIA, based in Washington D.C., includes Amazon, Google, Facebook parent Meta as members. CCIA said ETNO’s comments were inappropriate because the FCC lacks the authority to impose network usage fees. At a minimum, CCIA said the FCC should consider ETNO’s position as a clear indication that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have economic leverage over edge providers if not stopped by Net Neutrality rules.

“It is telling … that European telcos are urging the FCC to adopt Network Usage Fees in the context of this [Net Neutrality] proceeding. ETNO’s request is itself evidentiary support that network owners are well aware of their singular access to Internet users and are prepared to leverage that access into financial gain,” CCIA said.