Europe's main telecommunication operators association, ETNO, said on Friday that it is not asking the United Nations to impose taxes on Internet content providers.
Sources at ETNO said that fears the United Nations would impose taxes on the likes of Google and Facebook were unfounded.
ETNO said that it does not envisage taxes on content providers, but rather wants telecommunications network operators to consider commercial deals with these content giants. ETNO's proposal was submitted as a topic for debate at the UN's International Telecommunication Union (ITU) in December.
However, among the revisions to the ITR that ETNO is proposing is one that may rile advocates for net neutrality. Its suggested wording for one article reads, "Nothing shall preclude commercial agreements with differentiated quality of service delivery to develop."
Concerns about the upcoming debate were aired at a U.S. Congressional hearing last week. Google's Vinton Cerf warned then that "the open Internet has never been at higher risk than it is now."
The ITU is due to discuss changes to the International Telecommunications Regulations (ITRs) that govern international communications traffic. With the rules originally drawn up in 1988, an update is considered long overdue by some.
"New services enabled by the Internet are changing the economic landscape, and indeed the very nature of the telecoms industry," says the ETNO proposal. "Revisions of the ITRs should acknowledge ... the principle that fair compensation is received for carried traffic and operators' revenues should not be disconnected from the investment needs caused by rapid Internet traffic growth. This should at best be achieved through commercial arrangements between players."
However critics have said that this principle of "sending party network pays" could see huge costs for the world's most popular websites.
ETNO represents 41 operators in 35 European countries including Belgacom, Telecom Italia, Orange France and Deutsche Telecom -- companies that have complained about "bandwidth-hogging" websites for some time.