European Parliament Backs Net Neutrality And An End To EU Roaming

Mobile phone roaming Europe SIM cards © 136240814 Shutterstock

Connected Continent package faces one more hurdle before it can become law, but European roaming is set to end by December 2015

The European Parliament has given its blessing to a package of proposals that will abolish roaming within the 28 member states of the EU by December 2015 and give support to the principles of net neutrality.

The Connected Continent package, which aims to help establish a single European telecoms market, is now one step away from becoming European Law. The proposals will be discussed by EU Council members later this year, before they can become legislation.

“This vote is the EU delivering for citizens. This is what the EU is all about – getting rid of barriers to make life easier and less expensive,” said European Commissioner Neelie Kroes, who has been the most vocal supporter of a single European telecoms market.

Connected Continent

“In 2010 I promised to end roaming charges by the end of 2015, and now we are one step away from achieving that result. Beyond the highly visible barrier of roaming we are now close to removing many other barriers so Europeans can enjoy open, seamless communications wherever they are.”

European commissioner for competion, Dutch,  Neelie KroesThe package was first proposed by the European Commission in September 2013, and also includes provisions for coordinated spectrum licencing and protection of consumer rights, including greater transparency over broadband speeds and the ability to easily switch Internet providers.

The abolition of roaming has been a contentious topic, with operators keen to protect the premium they can levy on customers for using their phone abroad. The EC has been gradually implementing measures that limit the amount networks can charge, but if passed, the new laws would eliminate it entirely.

“The death of roaming charges can’t come soon enough,” says Ernest Doku, telecoms expert at uSwitch. “Technically, this move means foreign mobile networks could start to chase British custom, which could mean cheaper deals due to stiffer competition. Good news for mobile customers, not such good news for mobile networks, who will see their bottom lines impacted and could attempt to claw back the shortfall by raising bills across the board.”

The issue of net neutrality has also been controversial, with many ISPs keen to charge data intensive services such as Netflix additional charges, with the threat of reducing the bandwidth available to users if they don’t, arguing that the money would be used towards network upgrades.

Netflix says it has “reluctantly” paid such fees in the US to protect its users’ experience, but it shouldn’t need to do so in the UK if the proposals become European law.

“We’re delighted that the European Parliament has backed an open, free and democratic internet and we hope that the British government does the same,” says Jim Killock, executive director of the Open Rights Group. “The Regulation means that for the first time net neutrality is properly defined and protected in law, making sure that all internet traffic is treated equally.”

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