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By Foo Yun Chee
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Europe's net neutrality rules that support an open internet would be undermined if EU regulators force tech giants Google, Meta and Netflix to shoulder some of the costs of its telecoms network, digital rights activists warned on Wednesday.
The comments from 34 NGOs from 17 countries, which include European Digital Rights, Civil Liberties Union for Europe, ARTICLE 19 and Electronic Frontier Foundation, came in an open letter to European Commission digital chief Margrethe Vestager and EU industry chief Thierry Breton.
The groups said they were concerned about comments from Vestager last month in which she suggested Big Tech firms might have to contribute to the cost of telecoms infrastructure - something telecoms operators have long lobbied for.
EU net neutrality rules mean internet service providers (ISPs) can't block or throttle traffic to give priority to some services. Some experts fear this commitment might get watered down in a deal with Big Tech to help fund telecoms networks.
"Charging content and application providers for the use of internet infrastructure would undermine and conflict with core net neutrality protections in the European Union," the groups said.
They compared such a move to the Trump administration's attempt to eliminate net neutrality protections in the United States.
The groups criticised EU telecom companies for pushing a proposal first raised in 2012.
"The EU's net neutrality law allows Europeans to use the bandwidth they buy from their ISPs however they want – whether for Netflix, YouTube, Facebook, or for a small, local site or service," they said.
"Thus European telecom companies are already compensated by their own internet service customers for transporting this data over their access networks; they simply want to be paid twice for the same service."
(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; Editing by Mark Potter)