EU finally agreed to cut roaming charges in 2017 but criticism is always there

Joint press conference by Andrus Ansip, Vice-President of the EC, and Günther Oettinger, Member of the EC, on EU Digital Single Market last May (EC Audiovisual Services, 06/05/2015)

Joint press conference by Andrus Ansip, Vice-President of the EC, and Günther Oettinger, Member of the EC, on EU Digital Single Market last May (EC Audiovisual Services, 06/05/2015)

The European Union finally reached an agreement last week to end roaming charges for people travelling within its 28 member countries as of June 2017. After 12 hours of negotiation the Latvian presidency reached a provisional deal last Tuesday with the European Parliament on new rules to end mobile phone roaming fees and safeguard open internet access, also known as net neutrality rules.

In a few words, the agreement means that “you can use your mobile device when travelling in the EU paying the same prices as at home”, as explained the European Commission explained in a statement. So basically if someone pays for a monthly volume of minutes, SMS and data in his country, any voice call, SMS and data session he will make while travelling abroad in one of the EU’s member states will be deducted as if he was at home, with no extra charges. Although last week’s agreement has been warmly welcomed and brought optimism around the progress of the EU digital agenda, the last few days have shown how criticism and concerns are still present.

Preliminary measures

The agreement is only a preliminary stage and still needs to be formally approved by the other governments and the European Parliament before it can be signed in as law, but still this represents a big step towards a digital single market. In the meantime, roaming fees will already go down in 2016: on April 30 next year the current retail caps will be replaced by a maximum surcharge of €0.05 per minute for calls, € 0.02 for SMSs and € 0.05 per megabyte for data.

The European Commission also announced that it will “introduce for the first time rules safeguarding the open Internet in the EU”. “Users will be free to access the content of their choice”, the EU explained in an official statement. “They [the users] will not be unfairly blocked or slowed down anymore, and paid prioritisation will not be allowed”. This means, for example, that the access to a start-up’s website would not be unfairly slowed down to make way for bigger companies.

A warm welcome

Andrus Ansip, Commission’s Vice-President for Digital Single Market, warmly welcomed the agreement and said: “Europeans have been calling and waiting for the end of roaming charges as well as for net neutrality rules. They have been heard”. Vice-President Ansip, who repeatedly mentioned the need of roaming charges abolishment at the European Business Summit in Brussels, last May, also added: “We still have a lot of work ahead of us to create a Digital Single Market. Our plans to make it happen were fully endorsed by Heads of State and Government last week, and we should move faster than ever on this.”

Günther Oettinger, Commissioner for the Digital Economy and Society, echoed him on the topic: “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 in today’s European digital economy and society”.

Many open points

As anticipated, last week’s agreement didn’t encounter only positive reviews. Critics have fiercely argued the new net neutrality laws, which would allegedly drag a lot of ambiguity around the matter. For instance, the new regulation would let broadband companies charge users in parallel for higher quality, dedicated connections for services such as video streaming or “innovative” applications, even though the rule’s aim is to treat “all traffic equally”. Moreover, broadband companies will be still allowed to set their own restrictions, while the European Parliament pushed for a totally open system.

In the US, for instance, where net neutrality has become one of the hottest points of discussion in the last years, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has voted last February to introduce the stringent net neutrality guideline, while here in the EU the brand new agreement could leave room for internet providers to dodge true net neutrality.

Also, many believe that actually 2017 might not be the final date for such a goal, and this could be the heaviest block to be removed. Apparently, a few, structural changes to the industry are needed to get rid of roaming charges entirely, which are reportedly more than one and a half year away from being completed. For instance, no significant change is likely to come as long as a more harmonised management of radio spectrum at EU level is not implemented.

Years of negotiations

The discussion about exorbitant roaming charges in the EU started already in 2013, although the elimination of roaming charges within the EU has been something under discussion for the last eight years. After the mentioned discussions in 2013, two years of negotiations, talks and U-turns followed, during which some clashes between the European parliament and EU governments took place. The reason is simple, as it is quite easy to see how the Governments of the Member States were (and still are) concerned regarding the financial impact on their national telecoms groups after the abolition of roaming charges.

Indeed initial plans to discard roaming had been planned to become effective at the end of 2015, but were blocked last March by the European Council, whose members are the Ministers of national governments. The same analysts that saw that move as a symptom of a retrograding approach are now worried that there could be another U-turn from the EU, which may then cause a significant negative impact on Europe’s Digital Single Market ambitions.

A true EU digital union?

The scrapping of roaming charges would represent a significant move towards digital union for sure, but still cutting cellphone roaming charges while allowing companies to potentially charge extra for access to their networks doesn’t look like a real revolution. At the same time, many national governments still oppose to such changes, because they say that control of domestic airwaves is a national issue, not a European one.

As long as this is a widespread belief, a true digital single market is quite far from seeing the light in the Old Continent.

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Featured Stings

Banks get trillions and the unemployed ECB’s love…

Can Greece’s democratic institutions keep it in Eurozone?

Another doomed EU attempt to interfere in Libya?

ECOFIN: Protecting bankers and tax-evaders

China’s New Normal and Its Relevance to the EU

Deutsche Bank again in the middle of the US-EU economic skirmishes

“C’est la vie”? French recession and unemployment to linger in Eurozone

The true EU unemployment rate may have soared to 21.9%

The European Internet is not neutral and neither is the Commissioner

EU to lead one more fight against climate change at G7 summit

Social Committee teaches Van Rompuy a lesson

Is Europe ready to cooperate with the rest of the world? Can Germany change its selfish policies?

ECB money bonanza not enough to revive euro area, Germany longs to rule with stagnation

A male gynecologist in Iraq: red line violated

The EU stops being soft with 10 Downing Street about Brexit

Greece may offer to China a European gateway

EU-Turkey deal on migrants kicked off but to who’s interest?

JADE Testimonial #3: Sebastian @ Fundraising

Do the EU policies on agro-food smell?

How distorted is the EU labour market by this crisis?

Launch of Pact for Youth: European Youth Forum calls for real business engagement

The strong version of the EU banking union gains momentum

EU deserves the title of the Syrian affair merchandiser

Climate Change Revolution: by-laws for the world

More unemployment and lower wages to make European workers competitive?

A young European voice on Grexit: too high a bill and too big a deal!

Investing in working conditions and quality jobs

Europe rethinking its severe austerity policies

Gender Equality and medicine in the 21st Century: we want the fair share

Austerity lovers and ‘relaxationists’ fight over the EU budget

Youth Guarantee putting young people in jobs

Threats from mammoth banks and Brussels fuel May’s poll rates

From Russia with love: Brussels and Moscow close to an agreement on Ukraine’s gas supplies

Eurozone stagnates after exporting its recession to trading partners

South Eurozone needs some…inflation and liquidity

Assembly of European Regions @ European Business Summit 2014: The European regions on the path to recovery

Is there a chance for the West to win the war on terror?

The race for Driverless vehicles: where is the industry heading?

Eurozone: Economic Sentiment Indicator recovering losses

The European Parliament rewrites the EU budget in a bright day for the Union

Why do thousands of migrants need to be drowned for Brussels to wake up?

Youth Entrepreneurship Issue of the month: JEN, organisers of JADE October Meeting, on why JEs should come together

€5 billion of EU energy efficiency project money spent on “comfort”

The challenges of mental health among the Syrian medical students

Entrepreneurial leadership: what does it take to become a leader?

Minority governments ‘à la mode’ in Europe but can they last long?

Greferendum: the biggest political gaffe in western modern history to tear Europe apart? #Grexit #Graccident

Parliament toughens its position on banking union

What have the banks done to the markets making them unable to bear cheap oil?

ECB offers cheaper money despite reactions from Germany

Fostering intergenerational solidarity and cooperation through age-friendly environments: the right answer to Europe’s demographic challenge

The EU Commission to fight unemployment tsunami with a…scoreboard

Is deflation a real danger for Eurozone?

Eurozone: Bankers-politicians rig keeps robbing taxpayers

How can entrepreneurship tackle the migration crisis in the EU?

What will Germany look like after the next election?

Italian electoral results to change Eurozone climate and weight on the Cyprus issue

Appreciation of euro to continue

MWC 2016 LIVE: Freemium MVNO model a success, claims FreedomPop head

Nitrate pollution of water sources: new impulses for EU Water Policy?

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s