The European Union is reportedly looking at creating a fund to help with the cost of fibre and 5G build-out, with big technology companies providing the cash.

Brussels has been grappling with the question of whether to make – or attempt to make – the tech giants pay for the bandwidth they use for years, and despite how tricky any such move would be, the issue simply will not die. Last year the European Commission said it would launch a consultation into the matter, and that now seems to be coming to fruition.

Bloomberg has had sight of a draft document that forms part of the European Commission’s industry consultation. That document contains the suggestion that big technology companies could be asked to pay into a central pot that would serve as a fund to offset the cost of building 5G mobile networks and fibre infrastructure. This fund would be in addition to mandated payments from tech giants to telecoms operators to pay for their network usage, the newswire says.

The consultation also floats the idea of there being a threshold beyond which a company could be designated a ‘large traffic generator.’ The newswire gives a couple of the usual examples in this area: Google parent Alphabet and Netflix.

It noted that the consultation will remain open for two to three months and will serve as the first real step in any concrete plan to charge OTTs for network access.

We’ve heard all of this before, of course. And needless to say, nothing has come of it as yet, despite many years of debate.

There’s no reason to think that anything will be different this time around.

The only thing that’s changed is that the situation has become a little more acute for telecoms operators. They are carrying a lot of traffic, their customers are in many cases paying less for it, and the prospect of heavy investments in new generation technology is looming large.

It’s easy to understand why telecoms operators want to be able to monetise their networks more effectively. But doing that by charging the data producers – the streaming companies and so forth – rather than the consumers feels like a non-starter, given the way the internet model has evolved.

Nonetheless, it’s a pretty safe bet that this won’t be the last we hear of it from Brussels.

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