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Rome to push for ditching “fair share” debate at informal EU Council

During next week’s digital ministers meeting in Spain, the Italian government will formalise its position on the “network tax” proposed by the Commission and rejected by most stakeholders: move beyond and focus on a more comprehensive assessment of how to bolster European telcos

Italy is not a fan of “fair share”. According to Il Sole 24 Ore, the Italian government intends to formalise its position on a controversial European Union policy proposal – centred on whether online content providers should contribute to the development of the European Union’s telecommunications infrastructure – at the upcoming informal meeting of EU telecommunications ministers in Leon, Spain, on October 23-24.

  • In short, as the executive had already signalled, Rome will publicly oppose that solution and urge the EU executive to sideline it in favour of a more comprehensive evaluation of how to reform the European market for telcos.

The trend is clear… In August, Undersecretary for Innovation Alessio Butti had sent a letter to EU internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton, the driving force behind the “fair share” proposal. In it, the Italian official called for further consideration of the proposal, which he deemed “premature,” in need of “reliable data” and potentially dangerous for both the digital economy and the principle of net neutrality.

… and getting clearer. Earlier this month, the EU Commission belatedly published the results of a months-long consultation on the future of the electronic communications sector and its infrastructure. That document provided backing for the Italian position, given that the vast majority of respondents (barring telcos) are against direct payments by content-providing companies to support infrastructure developments.

  • Contextually, Commissioner Breton published a LinkedIn article to discuss the results – and effectively postponed any discussions about a broader regulatory telecommunications reform by calling for a “game-changing ‘Digital Networks Act’ to redefine the DNA of our telecoms regulation.”
  • The Commission intends to do that by presenting the guidelines in the first quarter of 2024 and aims to reach a final proposal before the summer of 2025. But because of the EU elections in June 2024, that decision rests with the next Commission.
  • That’s in line with Undersecretary Butti’s direction: postponing the “fair share” debate in the name of a more comprehensive approach capable of favouring the birth of pan-European telecoms operators.

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