Euro IXP group comes out against the ‘fair contribution’ argument

Euro-IX, the association of European Internet Exchange Points (IXPs), reckons forcing big tech to pay for the content it sends over the internet is a rubbish idea.

In a letter to the European Commission Bijal Sanghani, MD of Euro-IX, addressed the concept underlying the ‘fair contribution’ argument (referred to in the letter as ‘fair share’), of Sending Party Network Pays (SPNP). Essentially SPNP would fundamentally change the way the internet works by effectively introducing the kind of termination fees we associate with the legacy telephony system, along with the associated regulatory bureaucracy.

“According to BEREC, the SPNP model would simply lead large players exploiting the last-mile telecom bottleneck to increase monopoly profits, while leading to unnecessary and distorting regulation of what is otherwise a very competitive market,” says the letter. BEREC stands for ‘Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications’ and it has consistently argued against SPNP over the years.

“On this basis, Euro-IX respectfully observes that the proposal will risk to be detrimental to the correct functioning of the Internet connectivity and peering market and distort competition therein,” the letter continues. “Citizen’s experience in basic business operations, sharing data, accessing cloud services and developing research projects will be negatively impacted. This can be seen by mandatory termination charges implemented in South Korea, which has resulted in reduced quality and security of the services provided to end-users.”

The reference to South Korea is backed up by a link to this lengthy analysis of the situation there. At its core, the argument against ideas like SPNP is that the reason the internet is so great is the frictionless way in which it operates as a network of networks. If you start introducing impediments at the various points of interconnection you will fundamentally undermine the whole concept and make it worse for everyone.

Specifically, the letter claims this sort of thing would:

  • Increase the costs of concluding interconnection agreements
  • Inhibit networks’ choice to peer
  • Reduce interconnection density and quality of service to the end-user
  • Replace the current market-based model for interconnection with a highly regulated interconnection market in which administrative rules rather than technical necessity or a high-quality internet for the European citizens becomes the primary determinant of interconnection decisions
  • Accidentally create new systemic weaknesses in critical infrastructure.

The European Commission has promised to have another look at the matter this year but the above argument, as well as many others, are compelling. This kind of state meddling nearly always ends in tears and, even if you’re in favour of that sort of thing, the chances are that imposing SPNP would break far more than it fixes. The internet works brilliantly for nearly everyone and the special pleading of one sector shouldn’t be allowed to jeopardise that.


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