The European Commission (EC) opened a long-anticipated consultation which could lead to third parties contributing to the cost of network infrastructure, as it detailed two other initiatives designed to boost access to the latest generation of fixed and mobile technology.

Its trio of moves announced today (23 February) all come under the wider policy of making gigabit connectivity available to businesses and citizens across the European Union by 2030.

As part of this, the EC is conducting an “exploratory consultation” on a range of issues including “the potential need for all players benefitting from the digital transformation to fairly contribute to the investments in connectivity infrastructure”.

The EC noted it was a “complex issue which requires a comprehensive analysis of the underlying facts and figures, before deciding on the need for further action”.

It added it is “strongly committed to protecting a neutral and open internet”.

The issue of getting large technology companies to contribute to the cost of network rollouts is one set to be fiercely contested between the mobile industry and those potentially on the hook to contribute.

Responding to the opening of the consultation, GSMA chief regulatory officer John Giusti said it commended the EC’s “leadership in initiating an honest discussion about the role that companies benefitting the most from use of European networks should play in contributing to infrastructure investment” in the region.

“We believe it is only fair that the companies generating the largest amounts of traffic on Europe’s networks should contribute to the required infrastructure investment,” he added. “That burden should not fall entirely on the backs of European consumers and businesses.”

Interested parties have a deadline of is 19 May to submit comments.

Gigabit infrastructure
The Gigabit Infrastructure Act is the latest proposed legislation designed to cut red tape and costs for installing physical infrastructure for communication networks.

Included in the EC’s recommendations are rules designed to improve co-ordination of civil works between operators. The proposed act has to go through the European Parliament and Council of member states before being applied.

The third EC move, a draft Gigabit Recommendation document, targets national regulators and, if approved, provides guidance on conditions of access to networks owned by operators with “significant market power”.

It aims to incentivise faster switch-off of legacy technology and accelerate deployment of the latest generations.

The proposal is the subject of a two month consultation from Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications.