EU Agrees to remove Roaming Charges, Enshrine Net Neutrality
After months of delay, European negotiators finally agreed early Tuesday morning to a provisional deal on reforms that will secure open Internet access and eliminate mobile phone roaming charges throughout the EU starting in June 2017,
The deal was headed by the Latvians after a marathon session that started at 2 pm Monday afternoon and lasted until 2 am Tuesday morning
The European Union early Tuesday agreed to a final version of a law that would enshrine the equal treatment of Internet traffic starting next year and would scrap cellphone roaming costs starting mid-2017, after almost two years of negotiations among lawmakers watered down the initial, more ambitious proposal.
The text, agreed by the European Parliament and the rotating presidency of the European Union held by Latvia, still needs to be approved both by the Parliament and the European governments before being entered into law — but this is seen as likely given that the deal has been informally agreed.
I welcome today’s crucial agreement to finally end roaming charges and establish pragmatic net neutrality rules throughout the EU… both are essential for consumers and businesses,
said Günther Oettinger, the EU’s digital chief.
Under the new law, operators will have to treat all Web traffic equally, a rule also known as “net-neutrality.”
But the European law, which would take effect as of April 30 next year, is milder compared with a law recently introduced in the U.S. because it will allow operators to enter into agreements that ensure a minimum Internet quality for special services, such as video conferencing or surgery, as long as they don’t impede Web access for other users. Blocking or restricting Web traffic would also be allowed in some cases, such as to counter cyberattacks or ease the flow of traffic.
The law will also ban roaming charges across Europe as of June 15, 2017. But under a so-called “fair use policy,” operators will be able to prevent roaming abuses, such as if a person lived in one country but registered their mobile phone in a country where subscriptions cost less.
The telecoms agreement is a much slimmed down rendition of the initial proposal—unveiled two years ago by the Commission, the EU’s executive body, which had also still aimed to harmonize the way in which radio spectrum licenses are granted for wireless Internet connections.
But that third of the draft law was hived off after pushback from governments insisting that radio frequencies are national property. Radio spectrum is used for everything from mobile phone communications, and TV signals to ambulance radios.
The EU still plans to recycle the proposals to overhaul spectrum into the bloc’s single digital market project — a bundle of 16 initiatives aimed at reigniting growth in the region and which include harmonizing some of the 28 European countries’ rules to facilitate buying goods and services online across borders.
We will build on these important foundations