On 3rd April, the European Parliament has voted to end roaming charges by December 2015, as part of a wider vote in support to the Commission’s proposed regulation for a “Connected Continent” (Telecoms Single Market).
The “Connected Continent” telecoms Regulation was proposed by the Commission in September 2013.
It aims at bringing us much closer to a truly European Single Market, by ending roaming charges, guaranteeing an open internet for all by blocking and degrading of content (“Net Neutrality” principles), coordinating spectrum licensing for wireless broadband, giving internet and broadband customers more transparency in their contracts and making it easier for customers to switch providers.
The package was adopted by 534 votes to 25, with 58 abstentions.
This decision comes just two months before EU elections, when more than 300 million Europeans will vote for candidates to the European Parliament.
This change is due to take effect from 15 December 2015. However, it still requires approval from EU governments. The package could still change after getting Parliament’s backing because it must be approved by the Council of the European Union, which includes representative of each Member State. The Council is expected to make a decision in October 2014.
Under the wide-ranging telecoms reforms, as from December 2015 the cost of making a call or downloading internet data in one of the 28 EU countries will be the same as at home (“Roam like at home”).
In recent years the EU has legislated to lower the costs, so operators have been forced to cap their fees for calls, sms and data traffic (i.e. last year the cap for internet browsing was lowered to 45 €cents per MB, from 70 €cents per MB in 2012).
In fact, a European Commission survey in February showed that 94% of Europeans limit their use of the web when travelling in Europe because of the cost of mobile roaming.
As far as the Net Neutrality principles are concerned, this decision aims at maintaining Net Neutrality in Europe. According to this decision, all traffic on the internet shall be treated equally, irrespective of its source. This will prevent carriers and ISPs from offering preferential treatment to large web services in exchange for economic or other reasons.
Members of the European Parliament shortened the European Commission’s list of “exceptional” cases in which internet access providers could still be entitled to block or slow down the internet (e.g. in case of court order, network security or temporary prevention of network congestion).
This is in direct contradiction to the US, where some operators have been trying very hard to control the data that flows across their networks, while at the same time squeezing more money out of consumers and web service providers.
While US lawmakers have generally favored corporate entities, this is another example of the European Union’s general tendency to side with consumers.
European Telecom operators are not likely to give up the fight, especially over the Parliament’s measures on maintaining net neutrality. The industry says charging for different services and speeds would help fund network upgrades. But Internet activists say that goes against the spirit of an open Internet and would lead to the creation of a two-speed system.
Sector analysts estimate telecoms revenues could fall around five percent without roaming fees, although the Commission argues that since more consumers will use their mobiles as a result, some of the impact will be offset.
“This is what the EU is all about – getting rid of barriers to make life easier and less expensive. We should know what we are buying, we should not be ripped-off, and we should have the opportunity to change our mind” said Neelie Kroes, the European Commissioner for Digital Affairs.
Follow this link to watch the Video featuring Nellie Kroes delivering the Regulation news. http://ec.europa.eu/avservices/video/player.cfm?ref=I088198
ROCCO’s European Roaming Regulation Survey Results reveal more insights, for more information click here.
Federica Romano, Lucca Italy