Europe Wants to Tax the Internet. Again.

You know, eventually somebody is going to have to explain to Europe that data is not a fixed resource. Until then, though, they’re going to try and tax the crap out of it, and this time, they’ve dragged the UN into it, according to leaked documents.

Essentially, European telecoms see the issue like this: Apple, Google, Facebook, and so on take up a lot of their bandwidth. So, instead of just upgrading their systems, passing some of the cost onto the customer (who is, after all, demanding all this data in the first place) and accepting some of that cost as the price of doing business, like a company, they’re insisting that companies with servers outside their country should pay them billions of dollars to do it:

Proposals that foreign governments have pitched to [FCC board member Robert McDowell] personally would “use international mandates to charge certain Web destinations on a ‘per-click’ basis to fund the build-out of broadband infrastructure across the globe,” McDowell said. “Google, Tunes, Facebook, and Netflix are mentioned most often as prime sources of funding.”

Read: they make billions and dammit, we want a piece, even though we’re not actually entitled to one.

It’s built around the fallacy that these companies get a “free ride” on networks, which they don’t. In fact, they pay for, or build, Content Delivery Networks, or CDNs, to package and distribute their data and avoid network problems. Those CDNs pay networks to stream data on them.

Basically, the proposal presented to the U.N. would force bigger companies to build server networks in each country (or at least close to each country), which is the entire idea behind it, and force smaller companies to simply reject non-U.S. traffic. Gee, we can’t see how that would appeal to a set of countries notorious for being protectionist at the expense of their economy.

If this sounds like something that would clamp down on free speech and dampen the globalizing force of the Internet…well, you’re starting to get the idea:

If proposals harmful to global Internet users eventually appear in a revision to the ITRs, it’s possible that the U.S. would refuse to ratify the new treaty. But that would create additional problems: U.S. network operators and their customers would still be held to new rules when dealing with foreign partners and governments. The unintended result could be a Balkanization of the Internet.

Somehow, we think that this result is more “intended” than people like to think.

image courtesy Rob Deman on Flickr