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Telecoms firms seek new revenue streams for broadband rollout
Three of Europe's biggest telecoms firms are keen to start charging online content providers for delivering material to consumers.Major telecoms firms have warned that the European Union's targets on super-fast broadband access will be missed unless they are given permission to utilise new revenue streams.
The European Commission has demanded the industry plays its part in deploying next-generation broadband with download speeds of at least 30Mbps to all homes across the continent by 2020, with half of households receiving 100Mbps services by the same year.
However, the chief executives of Alcatel-Lucent, Deutsche Telekom and Vivendi have said reduced costs and more sources of income are necessary if these goals are to be achieved.
In particular, the organisations want national regulators to allow them to charge the biggest online content providers - such as Google and YouTube - for delivering their services to home and business broadband customers.
This is a move that has been opposed by supporters of so-called net neutrality - the principle that all content should be treated equally, rather than favouring one provider over another.
One critic of this system, citizen advocacy group La Quadrature du Net, argued that allowing the telecoms industry to control content in this manner would be at the expense of "fundamental freedoms".
Jeremie Zimmermann, a spokesman for the organisation, criticised European Commissioner for the Digital Agenda Neelie Kroes for meeting with Alcatel-Lucent, Deutsche Telekom and Vivendi to discuss the matter.
"Disturbingly, the innovators, artists and entrepreneurs of tomorrow are not invited to the table, and yet they are the ones who generate growth and innovation on the internet," he remarked.
However, the telecoms firms claimed charging content providers will help them contend with the explosion in data traffic on their networks caused by the increasing popularity of high-bandwidth applications such as online video and internet telephony.
Speaking to the Financial Times, Vivendi chief executive Jean-Bernard Levy insisted operators should have the right to request payments for delivering high-quality content.
"What we are requesting is ... to generate more money to invest in the next-generation infrastructure," he said.