The European Union announced that, by June 2017, there will be no more mobile roaming charges within the 28 EU member countries. It has also approved a ‘net neutrality’ plan, which is a first step in the right direction, but still leaves much to be desired.
The issue of roaming fees has been a staple in EU discussions for a while now, and their elimination was initially intended to take place back in 2015; however various EU countries asked for a delay, until 2018. The happy medium apparently ended up being June 2017.
Andrus Ansip, commission VP for the digital single market, said in a statement: “Europeans have been calling and waiting for the end of roaming charges as well as for net neutrality rules. They have been heard. 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.”
Bear in mind, that the plan regarding roaming fees, should be first permitted by the European Parliament and the European Council before it can actually be implemented. As a preliminary example of things to come, roaming charges within the EU will decrease slightly in April 2016, by €0.05 / minute for calls, €0.02 / SMS, and €0.05 / MB of data. Of course, providers will still be able to retain a ‘fair use’ policy, which will help them prevent abusive users from hogging bandwidth while roaming. Don’t get too excited, though; incidentally, telecommunications companies may see fit to raise domestic prices as a counter-measure to the EU ruling!
In addition to the decrease in roaming charges, and their eventual abolishment, the EU is taking steps towards ensuring that all users will be treated as equals, as far as internet access and online content are concerned.
The EU will soon be called to review the 2009 Telecoms Package, which addresses five main issues:
• The creation of a true single digital market, which will ensure equivalent access to the internet for everyone.
• The sale of spectrum rights, which will bring members of the EU sizeable revenues.
• The creation of sufficient incentives for markets to invest in high-speed networks, which will ensure that end-users will be able to benefit from competitive, affordable and fast connectivity.
• The examination of new online players, who may be able to provide similar or equivalent services to traditional telecoms services.
• The creation of a regulatory consistency across the EU, regarding spectrum management and other related issues.
They EU officials seem to think that telecommunications companies should treat all traffic equally, when providing internet access services, and forbade them from blocking or slowing any users down – except for when there have been hacker attacks, or when they need to enforce countermeasures. No more prioritization for paying customers, it seems!
However, some new, innovative and expensive services, such as IPTV, digital doctor-type of aps, high quality teleconferencing and self-driving vehicle technology, will require, apart from optimized hardware, a way faster and more reliable internet service, which seems like it will only be available to paying customers. How is that fair and neutral?
Well, EU officials seem to claim that this ‘better’ internet service will still allow room for open and unencumbered internet access for the rest of the users, and it will not hinder them at all. That remains to be seen!